Katie Buckhaven,
Katie Buckhaven
(Hot, 2005)

It is not often that a debut album contains material of such high quality, but Katie Buckhaven's first release positively oozes quality from every pore. With an eclectic mix of jazz and folk songs made more interesting by Katie's vocal range, it is not difficult to see why Eva Cassidy's Hot Records label signed Katie.

The album is 12 tracks long, including eight songs written by Katie and four covers. The first original song, "Lavender Eyes," is simply beautiful, and "Blue Light" evokes a smoky jazz-club feel. Both songs feature some lovely touches of flute. Two of the covers -- Bob Dylan's "If Not for You" and "Yolanda" by Pablo Milanes -- have a more stripped-down and intimate sound, the former with some delightful acoustic guitar work and the latter a flawless rendition in its original Spanish.

Another new song, "Can't Have It Both Ways," is an instant classic and I can hear this number being covered by blues and country artists for many years to come.

One of the most moving versions of the Christie McVie standard "Songbird" is present here, followed by Katie's gentle "Raining on the Moon." I am a huge fan of Jeff Buckley, and Katie does somehow touch upon a heady melancholy in "Raining on the Moon" that Buckley evoked in his best work.

"Desire" is a move in a more upbeat direction, but soon darkness descends with Cohen's "Famous Blue Raincoat" -- but all is not lost. The finale, "This Game," despite its blues lyrics, has a drive to the music and ends in a crescendo that would not be out of place on a David Lynch movie soundtrack.

I have always preferred original artists to those who do covers, but there is always an exception to the rule. Katie, along with Jeff Buckley, is an artist who not only gets away with it but does so with style, making these songs her own. Fortunately, Katie's own compositions make up two-thirds of the material, showing her to be a composition artist in her own right.

Katie's sound is unique but shares a similar territory with artists like Norah Jones and Joni Mitchell -- but at times the emotional intensity of the likes of both Tim and Jeff Buckley is what separates her from the pack. The quality and variety of her vocals makes Dido, for example, sound positively flat by comparison. I heartily recommend it to all lovers of melancholia and passionate, haunting female vocals. This album can be summed up with three words: elegant, enchanting and emotional.

- Rambles
written by Andrew Morris
published 20 August 2005

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