Cassandra Wilson - Loverly (2008)

Cassandra Wilson
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Cassandra Wilson never had a problem with expanding size and scope of what is considered a standard entry to the Great American Songbook. On a Wilson record, the canon includes pop songs such as "Time After Time," and the blues and gospel songs that Wilson heard growing up in Mississippi.

That remains the case on Wilson's latest recording Loverly. Wilson combines blues songs such as "St. James Infirmary" and "Dust My Broom" with songbook standbys like "Spring Can Really Hang You Up the Most" and "The Very Thought of You."

The constant is Wilson's voice, which gives every song she sings intimacy. That intimacy takes listeners to places such as dance floors and tables for two, where voices rarely rise above a whisper and a glance or touch can say a much as 1,000 words. If I wanted include a voice on a soundtrack to either sing me to sleep or wake up to, Wilson's would be right up there in the top.

Cassandra Wilson never had a problem with expanding size and scope of what is considered a standard entry to the Great American Songbook. On a Wilson record, the canon includes pop songs such as "Time After Time," and the blues and gospel songs that Wilson heard growing up in Mississippi.

That remains the case on Wilson's latest recording Loverly. Wilson combines blues songs such as "St. James Infirmary" and "Dust My Broom" with songbook standbys like "Spring Can Really Hang You Up the Most" and "The Very Thought of You."

The constant is Wilson's voice, which gives every song she sings intimacy. That intimacy takes listeners to places such as dance floors and tables for two, where voices rarely rise above a whisper and a glance or touch can say a much as 1,000 words. If I wanted include a voice on a soundtrack to either sing me to sleep or wake up to, Wilson's would be right up there in the top.

A song like "Dust My Broom" proves that Wilson knows the blues. The church, the cotton fields and the juke joints of the deep south have been embedded into Wilson's DNA - as a result of her upbringing in the Magnolia State by musical parents who fed her a steady diet of everything from jazz to Motown. That's why Wilson can be sultry on a blues song like "Dust My Broom" and mournfully soulful when doing gospel songs.

However, listening to Wilson wrap her husky and smoky voice around a song like "Black Orpheus" is a revelation. Wilson doesn't engage in a bunch of vocal pyrotechnics. She sings slow and sensual, and her phrasing gives Wilson's pauses as much meaning as the words. Loverly is classic Cassandra Wilson. A balance of standards that transport listeners to a New York jazz club and bluesy numbers that brings the folk to the world where Wilson grew up. Her ease in navigating vocally through both proves Wilson is at home in either place.

Howard Dukes

 
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