Katie Melua, “Album No. 8″ (BMG)
Katie Melua sings as though she’s sharing a secret, which is what makes her music so inviting.
Born in the former Soviet republic of Georgia, Melua lives in the United Kingdom and is more popular there than in the United States. Perhaps that’s because she rarely raises her voice, but on “Album No. 8,” she really doesn’t need to.
Her affecting, arresting alto stamps the set’s 10 original songs with an ethereal beauty that’s immediately ear-catching. When Melua begins by singing “I’m taken in,” she’s describing her audience.
The Georgian Philharmonic Orchestra provides support, with lovely arrangements by producer Leo Abrahams. As strings swirl and bloom, Melua is also accompanied by guitar, piano, organ, saxophone, bass and drums in various combinations that never spoil the intimate mood.
There’s a dreamy longing to Melua’s tunes about faded love, reality and illusion, the tug of roots and edelweiss. The compelling drama “English Manner” swings like background music at a cocktail party, and “Voices in the Night” flirts with a dance beat, but the tempos are never fast. The way Melua sings, there’s no reason to rush.