Live at Blues Alley (1996 Blix Street Records)
Recommended by: Kirsi
Rating: 5 stars (out of 5 so far, but I might change the system as I go)
I'm delighted to begin on my new year's project in the old year. My neighbour and dear friend Kirsi (who is much taller than I am) recommended Eva Cassidy because of her voice. Kirsi first discovered this artist while visiting with another friend and neighbour, Myrna. "I heard that voice and I had to know who it was." Now Kirsi is a fan. Kirsi's other musical preferences are mostly re-discoveries from her youth: David Bowie, Cat Stevens, Jethro Tull. She also loves Barbra Streisand. She told me that Eva Cassidy died a few years back, of cancer, early in what was certain to have been a promising singing career.
The Live at Blues Alley CD was outside in Kirsi's car, and we were curled up on Kirsi's couch having a glass of wine, so she loaned me Method Actor, by the Method Actor Band (1988 BLP Records). I was terribly excited to be starting on my listening journey, but a bit disappointed as I listened to the album. Eva's voice is stunning (sometimes like Anni-Frid and Agnetha of ABBA, sometimes like Anne and Nancy Wilson of Heart). When she sings sweet it's as clear and true as a mountain stream running over smooth pebbles. When she wails, it's smokey and gutsy. The problem was the songs, a mish-mash of sorta-rock things with pedestrian lyrics and no discernable theme or style linking them together. Also, almost every song sounded awkwardly-produced. I don't know anything about sound recording, but I got tired of "the big echo-y voice" after about the third song. Only the first song "Getting Out," a blues song about a woman leaving her man and blowing up his house stood out. But Kirsi loved her, so I figured maybe this was just the first album of a band that didn't make it, and later Eva found her voice.
I phoned Kirsi and asked her if I could listen to another Eva Cassidy album because I wasn't crazy about the one she loaned me. She allowed that Method Actor wasn't her favourite and loaned me Live at Blues Alley.
I have this plan to listen to an album at least a few times over before making a decision, but I don't have to with this one. I know I love it. It's a collection of Blues and Jazz standards recorded at a club called Blues Alley in Washington DC. It's great. The songs fit her voice perfectly. While I'm no blues or jazz expert I know that she is singing them her own way, and it's great. I love every song. Here they are in the order of the album ( I haven't listened enough to choose a favourite): Cheek to Cheek/Stormy Monday/Bridge Over Troubled Water/Fine and Mellow/People Get Ready/Blue Skies/Tall Trees in Georgia/Fields of Gold/Autumn Leaves/Honeysuckle Rose/Take me to the River/What a Wonderful World/Oh, Had I a Golden Thread. I will definitely listen to this some more. I also want to find out if what an original Eva Cassidy song (or one written specifically for her voice) sounds like.
Eva recorded and released 3 albums before she died in November 1996. Six more albums have been released since. From reading her unofficial website I can see that she has a big following in Sweden and Great Britain. Interest in her is growing in the US. Several world-class figure skaters have skated to her songs. She was also a sculptor, mural painter and landscaper.
Yayyyy! Thank you for this recommendation Kirsi. Thank you for being brave and jumping first into the pool and for your enthusiasm and acceptance of my galloping experience-junkie ambitions.
I wonder what's next?
Question: Speaking of Blue Skies, have you heard the version sung by Ralph Shaw, King of the Ukulele? sweet sweet ahhhhh!
mompoet - galloping into new adventures