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Rarely anything but unorthodox, Dubliner Cathy Davey's musical development has been almost as atypical as her listening habits. Having initiated a major-label bidding war before she'd ever performed live, Davey took her time assembling a group of musicians who would not only realize her own ideas, but add their own influences to her bare-bones alternative pop. In her spare time, she admits she prefers not to listen to music, instead taking pleasure in reading, drawing, and watching television. Suffice to say, it's difficult to pick out too many of the usual influences in her music. Stock comparisons toPJ Harvey, Björk, and Kate Bush are somewhat useful, in the sense that she inhabits the same sphere of left-field female pop artists, but her use of blues and ambient electronic music sets her apart as an artist, as does her purposeful, playful obtuseness directly recalls her noted idol Tom Waits and contemporaries Radiohead.
Cathy Davey was born in Dublin, Ireland in 1979. Claiming to be too poor to buy her own records while growing up, Davey instead latched onto the music of friends, experiencing Guns N' Roses, the Stone Roses, and Radiohead as they reached their creative peaks. Noting that she could never adequately express herself by conventional means, Davey instead turned to the arts, developing interests in composing poetry, music, and art. Through her teenage years and early twenties, Davey composed in private, preferring not to perform in a live setting until she had the financial backing to employ musicians. In 2002, she put together a four-song, self-produced demo tape which she began to shop to record labels. The response to the tape was astounding, and a bidding war ensued between a number of Irish and British labels, with EMI eventually pipping Rough Trade to her signature.
Davey took time out in 2002 to add guest vocals to "Jellyman" from Wicklow electronic act Autamata's debut album My Sanctuary, and in 2003 joined Jimi Goodwin of Doves to lend backing vocals to Elbow's "Grace Under Pressure." She spent 2003 assembling a band, which included the then ex-the Verve bassist Simon Jones and keyboardist Diana Gutkind, a longtime member of Blur's touring band, and made her live debut in support of Dublin songwriter David Kitt. In January of 2004, she completed recording Something Ilk, whetting the public's appetite with the hungrily received Come Over EP in April. Something Ilk saw release in the U.K. and Ireland in late August via EMI's Regal Recordings imprint and debuted at number 28 in the Irish Album Chart, buoyed by the hit single "Clean and Neat." Successful tours opening for Elbow, Supergrass, and Graham Coxon followed, as did another single titled "Cold Man's Nightmare."
Davey moved toward a more electronic sound for her second studio album, Tales of Silversleeve, although lead single "Reuben" became her most successful single to date on the strength of its Bo Diddley blues beat. "Reuben" spent seven weeks in the Irish Singles Chart, debuting at number 42 in September of 2007. Tales of Silversleeve peaked at number 24 upon its release in October, and had spent 14 weeks in the Top 50 as of January 2008.