Saturday, February 18, 2017

Eva Cassidy - Songbird (1998)

It’s a shame people still don’t know who the late Eva Cassidy is. The singer and guitarist became a posthumous star in 1998 but unfortunately, while alive, she was totally unknown outside her Washington D.C. area home.

Two years after her passing at age thirty-three from melanoma, her golden singing voice was discovered by two BBC disc jockeys who heard her versions of "Over the Rainbow" and Sting's "Fields of Gold." She went on to have great popularity in Britain where she earned three number one records that sold over ten million copies combined.

A compilation, Songbird, put together from her three CDs was released in 1998 but Cassidy's work continued to exist in complete obscurity here at home until ABC-TV's Nightline televised a brief segment about her. The weekend after the program aired all of her albums soared to the top of Amazon's best sellers list. The disc went platinum in 2008.

Five songs from Songbird ("Wade in the Water," "Wayfaring Stranger," "Songbird," "Time is A Healer," and "I Know You By Heart") are from Cassidy's debut album, Eva by Heart. Four more, ("Fields Of Gold," "Autumn Leaves," "People Get Ready," and "Oh, Had I A Golden Thread") are from her second CD, Live at Blues Alley. The compilation's final track, "Over the Rainbow," is from The Other Side.

Some of the songs on this CD differ from the original versions. The singer's father found an alternate version of "Wayfaring Stranger" that was considered good enough to include on this set and the applause was edited from the Live at Blues Alley tracks.

Cassidy was an uncommon talent. Her voice allowed her to tackle any song with a rare combination of power and beauty. She was at her best on soft ballads and on gospel-tinged soul. Her sparsely arranged version of "Fields of Gold" is one of the most tasteful cover songs I've ever heard and rivals Sting's original. "Wade in the Water," "Wayfaring Stranger," and "People Get Ready" are her rhythm and blues offerings and although these tracks feature a really tight band that is also very satisfying her voice remains the star of the show. Cassidy's cover of Christine McVie's "Songbird," from Fleetwood Mac's Rumours LP, sounds like she listened to a lot of Dusty Springfield during her Memphis period.

During her brief career Cassidy received a few composing credits but she was mostly a terrific interpreter of other people's songs.

You can read about Cassidy's life, her music, illness and more here at Wikipedia and at a website put online by one of her relatives.

1 comment:

  1. She did have a coterie following outside DC, including you at the time Charlie?, but like Karen Akers and a few others, she definitely had a Lot more devotion focused locally than I would've guessed at the time of her death, so intense was her local following. DC is a funny set of scenes, given how important it is for punk rock and bluegrass, and of at least major secondary importance for hiphop, trip-hop and classical music (and still the only home for go-go).