Cassandra Wilson - Another Country (2012)

Cassandra Wilson
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Referring to Cassandra Wilson as simply ‘a jazz vocalist’ is akin to categorizing Quincy Jones as a just ‘a producer’: technically, both terms fit, but they also simultaneously water down the performers’ versatilities and the levels of virtuousity that they’ve achieved after decades of proving themselves capable of delivering much, much more. In the case of Ms. Wilson, her appeal and longevity in the world of music is as much owed to her eclecticism as it is her velvety alto, and on her latest offering, Another Country, the Grammy-Award-winning performer layers those soothing and sensual vocals over songs that were recorded in three cities and two continents with a singular focus on an approach to instrumentation that is acoustic rather than electric.

Referring to Cassandra Wilson as simply ‘a jazz vocalist’ is akin to categorizing Quincy Jones as a just ‘a producer’: technically, both terms fit, but they also simultaneously water down the performers’ versatilities and the levels of virtuousity that they’ve achieved after decades of proving themselves capable of delivering much, much more. In the case of Ms. Wilson, her appeal and longevity in the world of music is as much owed to her eclecticism as it is her velvety alto, and on her latest offering, Another Country, the Grammy-Award-winning performer layers those soothing and sensual vocals over songs that were recorded in three cities and two continents with a singular focus on an approach to instrumentation that is acoustic rather than electric.

It’s apparently not enough for Ms. Wilson to transport the listener to other realms of emotion and understanding with the dusky, velvet-dipped trills of her voice; she strives to pull them out of their own perspectives and enrich the experience with sounds that are influenced by, or perhaps native to, the locale of their origin. Paired back up with respected producer and jazz guitarist Fabrizio Sotti (they last collaborated on 2002’s Glamoured) and a host of other players (percussionists Mino Cinelu and Lekan Babalola, bassist Nicola Sorato and accordion maestro Julian Labro), Ms. Wilson employs a minimalist approach that’s almost a complete 180-degree turnaround from 2010’s Silver Pony, but the selections still manage to engage and enthrall: “No More Blues” throbs with a moody sense of indignation as Ms. Wilson struggles to get past a sense of loss with a mask of sass and pluck----“I left my home, I miss my friends but /I’m starting over, cuz I don’t want/no more blues----while “Almost Twelve” is a crisp and cosmopolitan-edged mid-tempo that bubbles with anticipation of the fun to be had and the memories certain to be shared, if only she can make her destination on time. The title track is one of the best in the entire set, with a feverish, percussive base setting the tone as Ms. Wilson’s alto dips into a passion so profound and a love so mystifying that it’s as if she’s stumbled into an unfamiliar, yet irresistable landscape:  “From the beginning, I was swimming in the current of your skin, the autumn rains turned into thunderstorms/the waters rose and I was drowning in your arms. But when I woke up in the morning, I was breathing, oh I was breathing/ I was alive, and I saw another country in your eyes.”

Given that Cassandra Wilson is a master at her craft and an artist who can both beguile and transcend, the only notable flaw on Another Country is the across-the-board languorous pacing and the brevity of it all (just ten tracks), which doesn’t allow her to expound on the richness of her range. But that doesn’t mean Ms. Wilson’s latest CD won’t worm its way into your subconscious, overtake the iPod or take you out of your present environment to join her at home in New Orleans (“No More Blues”), explore Italy’s breathtaking beauty at her side (“Red Guitar”) or take in the mesmerizing metropolis of New York (“When Will I See You Again”). In other words, Ms. Wilson is a tantalizing tour guide for Another Country and presents a jaunt that’s well-worth the time and effort of the visit. Highly Recommended.

By Melody Charles

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