Eva’s Lovely Songbird

Bruce Von Stiers

I had heard of Eva Cassidy but wasn’t sure that I knew her music. The co-author of a book about Eva sent me a copy of one of her albums. The title of the album is Songbird. It is a great set of songs that represents the kind of life that Eva led. The album was released on Blix Street Records.

Eva was a singer who died of cancer in 1996. She was in her early 30’s and had just begun to have a following in the Washington D.C. area. Through a special set of circumstances, ABC’s Nightline did a show about Eva. Now, all of a sudden, Eva’s music is really popular.

This album, Songbird, is a compilation of songs from three different albums from Eva. These albums were Eva By Heart, Live At Blues Alley and The Other Side. This last one was a duet album done with Chuck Brown.

Eva’s music is kind of hard to describe. It is sweet and melodic, yet can’t be really classified as pop. It isn’t really folk music either or even jazz. Eva struggled to get recognized because the record industry people couldn’t effectively categorize her music.

The first song on the album is Fields of Gold. It is song originally done by Sting. Eva played the acoustic guitar and Keith Grimes was on the electric guitar. It is a beautiful song that shows you right away that the album is going to good.

The pace picks up with the New Orleans style Gospel song, Wade In The Water. I don’t know how to describe Eva’s performance on this song other than it was fantastic. She got into the heart and soul of the lyrics and made them sound like they were truly hers. The song also has some great trumpet.

The third song slows things back down with the Johnny Mercer tune, Autumn Leaves. The only instruments on the song were the piano, played by Lenny Williams and the acoustic guitar strummed by Eva. It is a beautiful song that brings forth images autumn, leaves falling down and lost loves.

Wayfaring Stranger gets Eva’s stamp on it. It is done in a fairly fast paced, bluesy manner. Eva sings from the heart on this song.

The title track, Songbird, is next. This is Fleetwood Mac song. Normally, I frown at somebody doing a cover like this, especially as Christie McVie has such a distinctive voice in the song. But Eva did a great job of getting the inflection and emotion of each lyric just right.

Later in the album there is Eva’s cover of People Get Ready. This Curtis Mayfield song has been covered by a lot of artists. Eva once again puts her own stamp on this already great song.

Every since Judy Garland sang it in The Wizard of Oz, people have been doing covers of Somewhere Over The Rainbow. Eva’s rendition of the song is a fitting close to the album. It has all of the heart and emotion that Eva put into each one of the songs she performed.

Eva Cassidy’s life ended far too quickly. But her legacy lives on in the songs that she sang and performed on. I have no doubt that had she not died, Eva Cassidy would be a household name by now.

Eva’s cousin has a web site set up as a tribute to her. Here you can find out about Eva’s life and learn how to get her albums. The web site can be found at www.evacassidy.org.


© 2004 Bruce E Von Stiers