From the outset, Wilson’s raspy vocal shrouds my ears, and if this were a cold winters evening instead of a spring afternoon, her voice would be the perfect earmuff. However, one would not want any muffler present when Wilson’s voice can be heard. With a gravely depth as intense as the Southern Mississippi soil from which she hails, she delivers a profound lyric on the U2 confessional Love is Blindness.
Even the sighted would concur as this audio tale unfolds. In this new CD and digital collection, Wilson covers Pop/Rock hits from icons of the genres including: Bob Dylan, Glen Campbell, The Band, Van Morrison, Neil Young, The Monkees and The Wallflowers. Many of the songs and artists covered will be familiar to those who have attended her concerts, or heard previous albums such as 1993’s Blue Light ‘Til Dawn and 1995’s New Moon Daughter. Closer To You: The Pop Side celebrates the finest pop covers from Wilson’s seven albums recorded with Blue Note.
Her version of Cyndi Lauper’s Time after Time is almost unrecognisable, yet there is something familiar in the subtle strums of the Guitar. A step into the Latin pulses of Sting’s Fragile is a glide for Wilson who has always suffused Jazz with Blues, Country and pop. As the album wades through 11 distinct musical egos, Wilson’s personality remains uncompromised. Instead of becoming lost in a cover, she makes each song her own, with her unmistakable honeyed husky voice. Her Rendition of Ann Peebles’ I Can’t Stand The Rain is sublime. She assumes ownership of Dylan’s Lay Lady Lay bringing an African inspired regality.
The honey drips from song to song leaving the listening ear stuck to the smoky sounds and unique jazz phrasings. Thanks to Wilson’s personal signature style, each song is injected with a new lease of life. The character in her voice revives the narrative driven lyrics. She makes no compromises as she crosses over to embrace other musical terrains. Though the lyrics are not hers, she draws the listener closer.
Wilson, who won her second Grammy Award this year for Best Jazz Vocal Album (Loverly), personifies that album title on this album cover. In a Bjork-esque Avant-garde look, shoeless, she adorns the grass, her earthy brown locks melting into the green blades as if some exotic crop.
But Wilson need not cover her mouth, no faux pas have been made on this set, instead, ever the innovator, she has planted the seeds for fans of all genres to grow new affection for music they would otherwise have ignored.
Review by Fiona McKinson
1. Love Is Blindness (U2)
2. Time After Time (Cyndi Lauper)
3. Fragile (Sting)
4. Closer To You (The Wallflowers)
5. Last Train To Clarksville (The Monkees)
6. The Weight (The Band)
7. Tupelo Honey (Van Morrison)
8. Harvest Moon (Neil Young)
9. I Can’t Stand The Rain (Ann Peebles)
10. Lay Lady Lay (Bob Dylan)
11. Wichita Lineman (Glen Campbell)
Closer To You: The Pop Side by Cassandra Wilson out April 7 on Blue Note/EMI