Monday, February 07, 2005

In Praise of Cassandra



(This piece was originally presented in my other blog, Bread and Roses, last summer but chances are anybody reading this now wasn't reading B&R then...and it fits in nicely with the theme of this here blog...so I'm re-presenting it here.)

I'm not the kind of guy who falls in love with famous people (my longstanding infatuation with Linda Ronstadt notwithstanding)...I'm just not that guy.

But if I were that guy...if I were...I would be in love with Cassandra Wilson.

I wouldn't be in love with Cassandra because she's beautiful (though indeed she is that) and not even because she's a smart and daring artist (though she is that as well)...no, I would be in love with Cassandra Wilson because everytime she opens her honeyed, soft brown lips to sing, light and magic and wonder fill every fiber of my jaded being.

Jazz? Pop? R&B? Yeah, she embraces and embodies all of that...and, in the same instant, she will not be hamstrung by any of it. My Cassandra (if I were in love with her, she would be "my" Cassandra) would never allow herself to be hemmed in by arbitrary boundaries. Just call what she does music...sweet, sensual, soul-arousing, bittersweet, Heaven-sent magic given form, nuance, rhythm, and melody...and you'll be in the neighborhood you need to be in to find her...to embrace and appreciate her.

Her husky, knowing, amazingly supple and wondrous voice finds wisdom, knowledge, and a world of experience, good and bad and in-between, in the hidden recesses of lyrics...her own and those of a who's who of songcraft (Dylan, Miles, Billie, Joni, U2, Hank Williams, Van Morrison)...and brings them to new, startling, utterly satisfying light for all to see and luxuriate in.

I'm not the kind of guy who falls in love with famous people. I'm not that guy. And so, of course, I'm not in love with Cassandra Wilson.

And I plan to...not...be in love with Cassandra for many, many years to come.

*****

recommended listening:

Blue Light 'til Dawn (1993)
featuring a stately, revelatory version of Van Morrison's "Tupelo Honey" (with a dash of Jimi Hendrix's "Angel" thrown in for good measure) and a stark, haunting take on Robert Johnson's "Hellhound on my Trail" along with the sultry, self-penned title song.

New Moon Daughter (1995)
finding common ground and new nuance between diverse sources such as U2 ("Love is Blindness"), Hank Williams ("I'm So Lonesome I Could Cry"), Neil Young ("Harvest Moon"), Hoagy Carmichael ("Skylark") and even The Monkees (a jaunty, soulful "Last Train to Clarksville") along with originals (the slyly sensual "A Little Warm Death" and the wistful "Solomon Sang").

Traveling Miles (1999)
the spirit of Miles Davis revisited, reinterpreted, and joyfully celebrated with originals, songs once covered by Miles (Cyndi Lauper's "True Colors"), and Miles classics with new lyrics by Cassandra

Belly of the Sun (2002)
more compelling originals interwoven with smart, sometimes unexpected covers (Dylan's sweetly yearning "Shelter from the Storm", Robbie Robertson's "The Weight", James Taylor's "Only a Dream in Rio", and even Jimmy Webb's "Wichita Lineman")

Glamoured (2003)
another engaging, surprising collection features her songwriting collabrations mixed to wonderful effect with tunes like Sting's "Fragile", Dylan's "Lay Lady Lay", Muddy Waters' "Honey Bee", and Willie Nelson's immortal "Crazy"



1 comment:

Tricia said...

Oh yeah...I love her! You would have excellent taste...if you were that kind of guy. ;)