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31.05.19   >   Expressive Katie


30.05.19   >   Top 30 Calming Songs

A recent study has come up with the Top 30 Songs that Brits like to play to keep calm. And guess what? That's right, our Katie is in at number 24 with "Nine Million Bicycles". Now, to be honest, my top 30 calming songs would probably all be Katie Melua songs (though Dylan's Blowin' In The Wind and Springsteen's Atlantic City **might** get a look in—I don't know, I haven't given much thought to a calming playlist before) but the eagle-eyed among you may already have spotted what made number 1 on the list: What A Wonderful World. And I feel it is only right to point out that Katie's duet of that song with Eva Cassidy is even more calming than Louis Armstrong's. So as far as I'm concerned that's Katie at number one then. Oh, and by the way—no Eva Cassidy in that list? Seriously? But two Adele, who I find as calming as a slap round the chops with a damp haddock. Who actually makes these lists?


29.05.19   >   Katie Bite: Crawling Up A Hill


28.05.19   >   Dreaming again??

Maybe I dreamt it

27.05.19   >   Your greatest song ever?

What do you think is the greatest song of all time? The answer will be personal to you; there can be no definitive answer although if everybody voted a winner would be crowned even though it would still only be the greatest song to those who voted for it. Winning a vote would not change the minds of the remaining voters. Something about a melody could lift the heart of one person yet leave someone else cold. Similarly, a lyric can be identified with deeply on a personal level by some where others see no meaning in it at all. Even if you do have an answer to this question you may find it could change as you grow older and your perspective on life changes. I suspect very few people would give the same answer at 70 as they gave at 17.

If you are a lover of music it is a difficult question to answer since there are some amazing songs amongst the millions that have been written. In trying to decide I would ask myself “if you were stranded alone on a desert island which one song would give you most joy and comfort day upon day?” Actually, that didn’t make it a great deal easier—except in as much as I would want to hear Katie singing it. That requirement narrows down the shortlist to the candidates that Katie has covered (or indeed written—Faraway Voice could make the shortlist). Songs like Bridge Over Troubled Water, Fields Of Gold and Stardust would all merit consideration. In the end, based on the criteria of lovely melody, meaningful lyrics and Katie having to have sung it, my choice would be Dylan’s Blowin’ In The Wind. Whether my mood is pensive, vacant, melancholy or jubilant, it is a song that will always give me a lift despite lyrics some find depressing (I don’t—I find them hopeful. But that’s me.) I wonder what your greatest song ever might be?

26.05.19   >   Lyric card: The House

the house

25.05.19   >   Track Notes 53: Better Than A Dream



Mike Batt




Originally recorded by Mike Batt and used over the closing credits of 90s animated series The Dreamstone. (No, me neither).

Katie's version was released as a single on 9th March 2012. It only charted in Belgium. That's one for trivia quiz writers. I don't know how it is decided which tracks are used for singles but personally I'd have gone with The Cry Of The Lone Wolf instead. But then, what do I know?


Now, I know what you are thinking: wouldn't it be awesome to see a video of Katie performing this live at the legendary Ronnie Scott's? Hah, well I'm one step ahead of ya...
Better Than A Dream (Live at Ronnie Scott's)


 Better Than A Dream 

24.05.19   >   100% All Natural!

How could I resist this? Well, clearly I couldn't. Katie: 100% All Natural. Hell, yeah. I did feel a tad sheepish at the counter since I don't really look like a Katie but I stoically brushed personal embarrassment aside to own this magnificent guardian of the water which is destined to become my faithful companion on my many adventures.


23.05.19   >   Imeruli Khachapuri


Imeruli khachapuri is a staple food in Georgia. It is a thin flat bread stuffed with cheese. What could be better than that? (Actually, megruli khachapuri: a thin flat bread stuffed with cheese with more cheese piled on top.) I make megruli khachapuri regularly but I thought I'd have a go at imeruli for a change since I'd had a hands-on lesson from Keti at the GeoCafe in Reading and kindly been given her recipe. The picture shows my first attempt and it wasn't too bad, though perhaps a little crispier than it should have been. I need to experiment with a lower heat setting when I pan-fry. I quite like it crispy mind, but I wanted to replicate what I had in Reading which was the authentic khachapuri (well almost: Keti can't get Georgian sulguni cheese so she uses a blend of feta and mozzarella.)

I'm not going to post the recipe. That would be no fun. The best way to learn how to make it is to visit the GeoCafe in Reading, ask for Keti, smile at her nicely and say "gamarjoba" and ask her if she could please show you how to make khachapuri. Because Keti is Georgian and wonderful you'll probably find yourself in her kitchen within minutes.

22.05.19   >   Katie Bite: When You Taught Me How To Dance

katie bite

21.05.19   >   Springsteen: The Stories Behind The Songs


Until recently, my copy of the lyrics of Bob Dylan had pride of place on the coffee table. Said table is now groaning after the addition of another weighty tome—Bruce Springsteen: The Stories Behind The Songs. Where Dylan’s book is just the lyrics, and nothing but the lyrics, this wonderful creation is a look at each and every song on Bruce’s studio albums with notes and insights on how those songs came to be and what they mean. No Boss fan should be without a copy—it is pure gold—but it is of interest to anyone with a passion for the craft of songwriting and you can follow the progress of one of the giants of the industry from a raw 20-year-old through almost five decades of constant development and reinvention.

In an ideal world, Springsteen would have written this book himself and provided even more detail and insight. But the world is, of course, far from ideal and Bruce would probably never have either the time or inclination for such a project. As much as fans have an insatiable appetite for this kind of in-depth information I suspect most artists would rather keep a hat on their inner workings and let their final creations retain some aura of mystery and wonder. A bit like a magician not revealing his secrets. Perfectly understandable, and something fans must reluctantly accept with a large sigh of sadness. But Hiatt has done a decent job of prising some secrets out of the Boss, helped by the collusion of E-Street members and other individuals with inside information, and the result is the closest we are likely to get to understanding our favourite Springsteen songs.

I have a dream that in twenty years from now I will sweep the coffee table clear for a new masterpiece entitled “Katie Melua on the Art of Songwriting”. She may not have the body of work to produce a book of lyrics like Dylan’s and her albums contain too many songs written for her, along with covers and collaborations, for a book like Stories Behind The Songs. But, having worked and performed with some of the biggest names in the industry since she was a teenager, Katie has served one of the greatest apprenticeships you could imagine and after a decade or two as a fully-fledged artisan of song craft she will surely have an unrivalled depth of knowledge she could pass on to future songwriters. We may have to wait a while but good things are worth waiting for, though sadly I doubt it will see light of day in time to help me become the next Ed Sheeran. That’s probably not a bad thing.

20.05.19   >   Track Notes 52: Gold In Them Hills



Ron Sexsmith




The first single from Secret Symphony, released on 11th November 2011.

This song is from the sixth album, Cobblestone Runway, of Canadian melancholic-pop guru Ron Sexsmith. He liked the song so much he included it on the album twice, the second version featuring a vocal duet with Coldplay's Chris Martin.


Here's a gorgeous live performance for television which has the bonus of Katie being accompanied by babes with violins.
Gold In Them Hills

And here's an alternative performance. This one, inexplicably, has Katie sharing the stage with a burglar blowing down a length of lead pipe. Luckily, Katie's stunningness keeps us distracted while he does whatever it is he's doing. Oh, and those heels... I could almost walk under those arches.
Gold In Them Hills (Titanic Commemoration)


 Gold In Them Hills 

19.05.19   >   Creatives v consumers

Katie often speaks of her love of music and it led me to wonder if her own musical abilities enable her to appreciate songs more than the average Joe on the street (e.g. yours truly). I thought about it for a while and concluded that no, it doesn’t. If anything, a non-musician can have greater appreciation—though it depends how you define appreciation. I’ll try to explain my thinking. I needed a way to relate to how Katie might compare other music with her own. For me, the answer lay in programming. Now I’m no whizz kid hacker but I’ve programmed computers for over thirty years so I know what is involved. That means when I look at a piece of software or an app or a web site, I’ll see it with a programmer’s eye. I’ll spot little things that most people would never notice (or indeed care about) and I’ll wonder how the programmer achieved that. Other times a feature may irritate me and I think ruefully about how I’d have done it differently. In other words, as a software creative I see software with different eyes to a software consumer. But I have had the best of both worlds since at one point I worked as a software tester which involved me having to look at software from the point of view of an end-user. Whichever hat I wore, I consequently viewed the software differently. As a consumer I want to enjoy using it and connect with it without being confused and struggling to understand it. As a creator I can appreciate the skill and thought that other programmers have put into it—or growl at their incompetence.

I imagine it is much the same for musicians. When Katie listens to a song she’ll probably be noticing chord progressions, key changes, lyrical styles and countless other subtleties that most of us would be oblivious to. As a non-musician, a listener only cares about whether the melody is catchy or inspiring, or whether the lyrics are something they can identify with. An enormously popular song may be eschewed by other musicians for using some musical trick they personally frown upon. All the consumer knows is that they like the song. The flip side is that a piece of music that might well be impressive in its musical technique and draw appreciative nods from other musicians may leave the general public cold. So the question of whether a musician can appreciate a song more than a general listener is something of a moot point since they have entirely different perspectives. That’s not to say a musician can’t “switch off” and enjoy a piece of music for what it is—but as I know from looking at other web sites and software, sometimes you just can’t keep your inside knowledge locked up for very long. I guess this applies to any creative genre. I can well imagine a top movie director watching the latest blockbuster with his children and while something might have them cooing “whoa” the director might be thinking “cheap trick, I wouldn’t have done it like that”. I think the phrase that might well sum this up is “ignorance is bliss!”

18.05.19   >   Trivia: Lilac Wine

Katie holds the last note of this song for 20 seconds. 😲

17.05.19   >   Sketch effect

sketch effect

16.05.19   >   My Top Ten Katie Songs

The other day someone asked me what my favourite Katie Melua song was. I looked at them blankly—you might as well ask me to name a favourite child. In fact, that would be easier since I don’t have children. I can name my favourite album: In Winter. But pick one song when every one is a winner? If I was an android my positronic neural circuits would be shorting out at the sheer impossibility of such a task.

But it got me thinking—perhaps I could come up with a top ten? So I had a go. Now, I have a slight feeling I may have done a list like this before back in the mists of daily bloggery but if I have I’ve forgotten it so I’ve no doubt you will have too. I could trawl through all the archives to check but it really isn’t that important, is it? And anyway, such lists have a habit of changing over time. Without further ado then, here is my current top ten favourite Katie songs. (One is a cover. Shoot me.) Oh, and they are in alphabetical order—my sanity could not withstand trying to place them in order of favouriteness.

Dirty Dice
Dreams On Fire
Faraway Voice
If The Lights Go Out
Never Felt Less Like Dancing
Plane Song
Shiver And Shake
Straight To DVD
Thank You, Stars
The Flood
What I Miss About You
When You Taught Me How To Dance

By the way, if you’re thinking there’s more than ten in that list—shut up. Go away. Look, I did my best okay?

15.05.19   >   Katie Bite: My Aphrodisiac Is You


14.05.19   >   Katie limericks

Because, well, why not?

There was a young girl from Kutaisi
Where the bread is commendably cheesy
She captured the hearts
Of countless old farts
By making her singing look easy

There was a young lady from Georgia
The country, not state, I implores ya
With her songs so heartfelt
You’d think butter wouldn’t melt
Though she could be Lucrezia Borgia

13.05.19   >   Lyric card: Twisted

12.05.19   >   Track Notes 51: The House



Katie Melua




Katie told The Daily Telegraph back in 2010: "If this album is about something, it's the puzzle of being alive, the mind maze of going inside your head and trying to figure out what the hell is going on in there."
"These apples I love, these apples I loathe"
I always love Katie's lyrics but I haven't the foggiest notion what this is all about. Good song all the same.

Bass player Tim Harries plays piano on this track. It's anyone's guess what that's about.


Here's the album version set to some mostly interesting, if random, art. I don't know why people do things like this but I'm glad they do.
The House


 The House 

11.05.19   >   A million colours in your mind...


Took this from my kitchen window last week. I could actually see where it touched the ground. No pot of gold though. Gave up digging at about six feet.

10.05.19   >   On the art of lyrics

One thing that always stands out with Katie’s music is the lyrics. They are important to her and she chooses carefully, and rightly so. And she has worked with some amazing lyricists—Mike Batt is a cunning linguist (auto-correct remained unusually tight-lipped with that) and she has also collaborated with the legendary Don Black, as well as performing songs by legends such as Leonard Cohen and Paul Simon. But when it comes to lyrics there is an undisputed master—Bob Dylan. He has a Nobel Prize for heaven’s sake, unprecedented for a lyricist. If you’re still not convinced name me any other artist that has a 650-page book just of their lyrics.


I can’t really do justice to this subject in a blog post and I have no doubt there are books out there detailing Dylan’s prowess with words. What I will do is throw out a few of my favourite snippets. I’m also a massive fan of Bob’s most eminent disciple, Bruce Springsteen, and I’ll quote some of his gems too for comparison. For Bob, I’m not even going near his best known work but just poking around in one album—Infidels. This wonderful album from the eighties is often overlooked but it caught my attention when he enlisted Mark Knopfler to play guitar. Without further ado, here are some snippets…

“Resting in the fields, far from the turbulent space
Half asleep ‘neath the stars with a small dog licking your face”


“Now, he’s hell-bent for destruction, he’s afraid and confused
And his brain has been mismanaged with great skill
All he believes are his eyes
And his eyes, they just tell him lies”

(License To Kill)

“I wish I’d have been a doctor
Maybe I’d have saved some life that had been lost
Maybe I’d have done some good in the world
’Stead of burning every bridge I crossed”

(Don’t Fall Apart On Me Tonight)

“But it’s like I’m stuck inside a painting
That’s hanging in the Louvre
My throat starts to tickle and my nose itches
But I know that I can’t move”

(Don’t Fall Apart On Me Tonight)

“Yesterday’s just a memory
Tomorrow is never what it’s supposed to be”

(Don’t Fall Apart On Me Tonight)

You could pick out wonderful quotes from just about every song Dylan has written. And he has written *a lot* of songs. That 650-page book I mentioned only goes up to 2012. It is a quite staggering body of work. But then, Nobel prizes aren’t handed out lightly.

Bruce Springsteen is widely regarded as the greatest live performer in the world but he doesn’t always get the credit he deserves for his lyrics. He once said he tries to write a song every day. Considering his career has lasted 50 years I’ll let you try to work out how many songs he may have written. Even though the majority of them have never seen the light of day we have still been treated to hundreds of songs over the years. He may not be Dylan but you can see how the Master has influenced the Boss.

“Seen a man standin' over a dead dog lyin' by the highway in a ditch 
He's lookin' down kinda puzzled pokin' that dog with a stick 
Got his car door flung open he's standin' out on highway 31 
Like if he stood there long enough that dog'd get up and run” 

(Reason To Believe)

“Now our luck may have died and our love may be cold but with you forever I'll stay
We're goin' out where the sands turnin' to gold so put on your stockings cause the nights gettin' cold”

(Atlantic City)

“So if you want to come along 
You gotta promise you won't say anything 
'Cause this guy don't dance 
And the word's been passed this is our last chance”

(Meeting Across The River)

“Show a little faith, there’s magic in the night
You ain’t a beauty, but hey you’re alright”

(Thunder Road)
(that last line, for some reason, has never got me anywhere with the ladies)

“And the poets down here
Don’t write nothing at all
They just stand back and let it all be”


I’d love to know Bob and Bruce come up with their lyrics and what their writing process is. I like writing lyrics myself—though without matching songs they are technically probably just poems—but for me, once I get an idea the whole thing usually spews out in under half an hour. It’s the same when I write novels—once I get in the zone the words flood out. But other people may take days or weeks to cobble together a lyric—a line here, a line there, change this, change that. I get the feeling Bruce is a fast worker. Not so sure about Bob.

And what of Katie, the diligent student of all aspects of the songwriting craft? Well, let me just quote…

“Because the line between wrong and right
Is the width of a thread from a spider's web
The piano keys are black and white
But they sound like a million colours in your mind”

(Spider’s Web)

Now, I don’t know how old Katie was when she wrote that but she was 21 when the album Piece By Piece was released. I’m pretty sure either Bob or the Boss would’ve been happy coming up with those lines at that age. I can’t wait to see what Katie is coming up with in twenty years from now.

09.05.19   >   Katie at Cheltenham


The red dress won by a landslide! And just look at that amazing acoustic guitar/bass combo 🤣
Tim Harries tried his best to hide completely behind Katie but just held his neck a couple of inches too low...

08.05.19   >   GeoCafe Georgian cafe, Reading


I’ve practically lived in the GeoCafe—the Georgian cafe in Reading—for the past couple of days. It is taking me a long time to get home from the Cheltenham Jazz Festival 😂 I’m being fuelled by Imeruli khachapuri and Georgian Black tea (other teas are available but wildly inferior). And of course, they are playing Katie Melua in the background. If you’d like a taste of Georgia and are in the Reading area then I urge you to pop in and experience some real Georgian hospitality from Keti and Zezva (ქეთი and ზეზვა). For more details have a look at their web site.


Freshly made Imeruli khachapuri. Contains {please don't ask} calories.

07.05.19   >   Review: Katie at CJF 2019

I can now die happy. I have heard Katie perform “Stardust” live. And boy did she ever nail it. For a few moments I melted into an ethereal cloud of extra-dimensional quantum-state pleasure particles. If you’re now saying “what??” — I liked it, okay?

Cheltenham was treated to a stunning final event to close this year’s Jazz Festival. Katie's set list was based on Ultimate Collection, with all but three of the eighteen songs performed appearing on UC. That isn’t entirely surprising—it is called the music business because it is a business and it makes logical commercial sense to lean heavily on the latest release. Having said that, I don’t have a commercial bone in my body so if I’d been picking the set I’d have gone a bit jazzier considering it was the closing act of a Jazz Festival. Of course, Katie didn’t need to worry since her talent will always win over any audience and the standing ovation she received at the end tells you all you need to know about her performance. For me, the biggest surprise was how she managed to fit in a couple of “In Winter” tracks. I couldn’t see how that would work but Katie knows what she’s doing and both “Plane Song” and “Perfect World” were very subtly jazzed up to involve the full band—Joe Yoshida’s drums and Tim Harries’ bass took away the wintry chill without imposing too much on the reflective nature of the songs. I’m beginning to believe Katie really is some kind of musical sorceress.

It was difficult to judge how much of the audience were there as Katie fans and how many were curious festival-goers. Every song received generous applause and the obligatory “whooping”, so there were definitely plenty of fans in the house. Sorry, tent. I saw one lady put her hands together in gratitude at the start of several songs and she was clearly overjoyed almost to the point of tears at what she was hearing. Fan. On the other hand, before the concert one chap told me all he knew about Katie was that she was from New Zealand. “No, Georgia,” I replied. “Oh, American.” Face-palm. He continued: “who was I thinking of then?”. “Kiri Te Kanawa?” I suggested, reasoning it at least started with a “K”. “Oh,no,” he retorted, like I was an idiot. “Hayley Westenra?” I tried, fast running out of New Zealand singers. “Yes, that’s the one,” he said. I face-palmed again as I tried to work out what kind of brain could mix up our Katie with Hayley Westenra. Funny thing about that encounter is it’s the second time in a month someone has told me that Katie is from New Zealand. Where is this fake news coming from? Did Trump say it at some point? Anyway, after Katie’s performance I doubt that guy will be mixing her up with any Antipodean warblers again.

The night wasn’t without incident though. After a few songs there was some heckling about the bass drum being too loud. That was a storm I had seen brewing when I was outside in the park during sound checks. You could hear the rumbling like thunder from a hundred yards away. At a rock concert they’d have been lapping it up but it doesn’t sit so well with a jazz crowd. I thought Katie, ever the consummate professional, handled the protests expertly and calmly—if she was thinking “shit,shit,shit” you would never have known. Personally, I thought the sound was engineered well. You could feel the pressure on your chest but it wasn’t hurting your ears and there was no distortion but then I’m an old rocker and the complaints weren’t a great surprise. The bass drum was duly reined in and Katie had the grace to ask if people were happy after the next song. Had I been closer to the front I’d have complained that I couldn’t hear the bass drum…

It was a chilly evening but as I walked through Cheltenham I was protected by the warm glow of having experienced a wonderful show. When I heard someone whistling “On The Road Again” I knew I wasn’t the only one.

Set List

  1. Belfast (Penguins and Cats)
  2. Wonderful Life
  3. Nine Million Bicycles
  4. Just Like Heaven
  5. In My Secret Life
  6. Call Off The Search
  7. Piece By Piece
  8. On The Road Again
  9. Kozmic Blues
  10. Fields Of Gold
  11. Stardust
  12. Diamonds Are Forever
  13. The Flood
  14. Plane Song
  15. Perfect World
  16. The Closest Thing To Crazy
  17. I Cried For You
  18. What A Wonderful World

06.05.19   >   Henry Weston's Big Top

This wonderful tent is the location for Katie's concert at the Cheltenham Jazz Festival tonight. It is located in the beautiful Montpellier Gardens. Cheltenham is an elegant city but as you can see it is well and truly rocking the festival vibe. I guess, technically, that should have been "jazzing" but that sounded borderline rude.

Henry Weston's Big Top Tent

05.05.19   >   Lyric card: God On The Drums, Devil On The Bass

04.05.19   >   Katie Bite: Wonderful Life

wonderful life

03.05.19   >   Moon River

I'd have loved to have included one of my favourite songs of all time, Moon River, on yesterday's covers playlist. The song was made famous when used in the classic Breakfast At Tiffany's. Sadly, there's no official recording available of Katie singing it 😥 However, Katie has performed it live and if you don't believe me have a little gander at this. I'm sure you'll agree she smashes it out of the park. Quelle surprise.

02.05.19   >   Playlist: Caressed Covers

I suspect that with my dying breath I'll still be telling everyone that Katie is the finest interpreter of songs I have ever heard. Maybe it helps that I'm really tuned in to the little nuances she adds and that her singing style is bang in the middle of my taste spectrum. Not everyone will agree with me but that's fine. Here's a playlist of some great songs she has covered. I can't wait to see what else she tackles over the coming years. Why not test your knowledge and see how many of these tracks you can name the artist most associated with them? (If you get them all you can treat yourself to a Twix.)

Caressed Covers

  1. Wonderful Life
  2. Just Like Heaven
  3. Bridge Over Troubled Water
  4. Diamonds Are Forever
  5. Fields Of Gold
  6. Love Me Tender
  7. It's Over
  8. Deep Purple
  9. Stardust
  10. Lucy In The Sky With Diamonds
  11. This Year's Love
  12. Blues In The Night

01.05.19   >   Track Notes 50: Twisted



Katie Melua, Rick Nowels




Katie's second collaboration with hit-machine Rick Nowels is yet another catchy tune that you could easily imagine Belinda Carlisle warbling back in the day.


Here's a live performance of the song for ABC News.





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