CD Review: Nightbird by Eva Cassidy


Nightbird - Credit: Archant

New Eva Cassidy collection features eight previously unheard songs.

(Blix Street Records)

The posthumous acclaim that has been bestowed upon American vocalist Eva Cassidy in the two decades since her death is well established, when in 1998 Radio 2 DJ Terry Wogan brought her recordings to the attention of first British, and then international audiences.

Almost 20 years since her death, the legacy of this honey-voiced, exceptional talent shows no signs of diminishing, and even her personal arrangements of established numbers have entered popular culture.

While fans desperate for new material from her prematurely-curtailed career have lapped up bootlegs and unreleased recordings over the years, her only solo album released during her lifetime was the original Live at Blues Alley, based on a performance she gave at the celebrated Georgetown jazz club on January 3 1996, just 10 months before she died from melanoma.

Unfortunately the original release of this session was restricted to just 12 of the 31 songs performed that night, and now at last a remastered and remixed version of the complete recordings is available, offering a remarkable all-in-one-night celebration of Eva’s vocal genius, as close as possible to what the audience experienced on that night.

As well as her staple numbers like Fields Of Gold, Wonderful World, Autumn Leaves and Over The Rainbow, this collection also includes her interpretations of classics like Fever, It Don’t Mean A Thing (If It Ain’t Got That Swing), Route 66 and Son of a Preacher Man. Just the chance to hear her remarkable vocals on “new” songs is both unexpected and welcome, and offer reason alone to pick up this release.

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However, accompanying the audio recordings in this set is a bonus DVD which offers a rare opportunity to actually see Eva performing 12 numbers from the Blues Alley concert, something the majority of her fans were unable to experience during her lifetime.

It’s spine-tingling to watch, as you can’t help being mesmerised by the sight of her on stage, knowing that this is one of the few chances to see Eva performing in her element.

An exceptional release, offering fresh insights into perhaps one of the greatest female vocalists of all time. Highly recommended.