Katie Melua's fifth album suffers from the opposite shortcoming to most female singers: rather than over-emote too flamboyantly, on Secret Symphony she seems emotionally constrained, stifling the songs in politesse.
The problem is most noticeable on the relaxed Dixieland slouch of the blues standard "Nobody Knows You When You're Down and Out", where her delivery is overly proper; the likes of Leon Redbone and Maria Muldaur do this kind of thing so much more naturally, as is the case also with "The Cry of the Lone Wolf". Her demure delivery is better suited to the pastoral optimism of Ron Sexsmith's "Gold in Them Hills", and "The Bit That I Don't Get", the best of producer Mike Batt's several songs, though even here the oversweetened melancholy makes for perhaps too complacent a regret.
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