A review of Eva Cassidy’s Songbird

Reviewed by Daniel Garrett

Eva Cassidy’s Songbird
Audio CD (May 19, 1998)
Original Release Date: March 31, 1998
Blix Street

Eva Cassidy’s Songbird anthology collects songs from various albums she recorded before dying of cancer: she gives “Fields of Gold,” written by Sting (Gordon Sumner), a golden, slow, tender, thoughtful interpretation, and does an authoritative and rhythmically astute reading of “Wade in the Water,” a traditional song; and there’s a slightly girlish poetic reverie in her treatment of Johnny Mercer’s “Autumn Leaves,” which was co-written with Joseph Kozma and Jacques Prevert, while “Wayfaring Stranger,” another traditional song with a spiritual theme, is sultry and hard-charging. A pretty song, “Songbird,” written by Christine McVie, is also an expressive vocal exercise. Eva Cassidy scats in “Time Is A Healer,” written by Diane Scanlon and Greg Smith, a song that promises that love heals the wounds that love makes. “I Know You By Heart,” written by Diane Scanlon and Eve Nelson, is about the lasting intimacy of love, and Cassidy’s version of “People Get Ready” is the best version of the Curtis Mayfield song I’ve heard. Pete Seeger’s “Oh, Had I A Golden Thread,” apparently one of Cassidy’s favorite songs, has a wistfully maternal quality, while Harburg and Arlen’s “Over the Rainbow” skirts various sentimental associations but Cassidy does not embarrassingly indulge them. The Songbird 
collection is a very good introduction to Cassidy, whose work did not reach a significant public until after her death; and having heard most of her other released recordings I can say that it is an introduction deeply welcomed.

About the reviewer: Daniel Garrett’s work has appeared on or in The Compulsive Reader, Offscreen, Cinetext.Philo, American Book Review, the Review of Contemporary Fiction, PopMatters.com, AllAboutJazz.com, and World Literature Today.