This follow up to Katie's debut, Call off the Search, shows the teenage sensation has grown up, but not grown away from her listeners. Though Melua contributes more (and not always pleasingly) to this second album, songwriter/mentor Mike Batt's sweet style still dominates the stronger numbers.
She opens with the playful "Shy Boy", followed by the whimsical "Nine million bicycles" both penned by Batt. The title track, which Katie wrote, comes next. Though lyrically it's more pathetic than moving, its comfortable curtsies to country and blues standards demonstrate that Katie does possess an attribute essential to lasting stardom - some songwriting talent.
Not all her work is so successful. "Spider's Web", is immature, cheesy, and lazily derivative of the now dated "Ebony and Ivory". This meditation on racism's less subtle complications, is [cringe! ow! euuuw! groan!] is threatens to ruin the album with its self importance, much as "Silver and Gold" ruined U2's Rattle & Hum.
"Spider's Web" has help, this time in the form of another track she wrote. "I cried for you," which is packed with lamentable lines like "To me you're like a wild rose." Could our Katie be the secret love child of some obscure country star? Let's hope not.
And actually, these failed attempts at songwriting are only two pimples on the smooth, pretty surface of this album. For the most part, Katie Melua's blues and folk-infused pop songs combine melancholy and innocence with the delicate but sugary melodies that first made her famous.
"I do believe in love", which Melua also wrote, is old fashioned, and schmaltzy like the solo in a 20s musical - charming with long, wandering melodies and a slightly whispered finale.
Mostly, Katie Melua's sings are simply sweet 'n low, avoiding show off twirls and vocal turns. Her powerful voice is relaxed and oddly original in its combination of strength and restraint. And she has no fear of interpreting the greats. Covering a Cure song is something few singers of any kind could successfully attempt. She takes on the gorgeous "Just Like Heaven", which Robert Smith performed with fretfully tortured twitchings, and turns it tender and dreamy.
With Piece by Piece, Ms Melua shows she's more than just a pretty voice, and that her extremely pretty face isn't something she's planning to hide her talent behind. While many teenage stars stop shining at age 20, Katie has already come far, and still has far to go.
- Jean Barker
WHAT OTHER CRITICS SAID"...she and Wombling mentor Mike Batt, who produced and wrote most of it, make a feature of the forlorn twang to her voice in a series of blues-based tracks."- Caroline Sullivan for Guardian.co.uk
"...she has stuck with Mike Batt and his gentle, jazz-blues sound, penned some stronger songs and focused on making the most of her gorgeous voice."- Lisa Verrico for Independent.co.uk
Piece By Piece fits together nicely like a little jigsaw puzzle. And even if it didn't, Melua would still sound simply ambrosial singing from a washing machine repair manual. - Kevin Maidment for Amazon.co.uk
GALLERY: New pictures of the lovely KatieWIN: Sign CDs, DVDs and a Coffee Mug when you buy her CD at 30% offOnce a 19-year-old
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