Eva Cassidy: Wayfaring Stranger

Track

Wayfaring Stranger

Artist

Eva Cassidy (vocals)

CD

Songbird (Blix Street Records 10045)

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Musicians:

Eva Cassidy (vocals),

Keith Grimes (electric guitar), Chris Biondo (bass, acoustic guitar), William “JuJu” House (drums), Lenny Williams (organ)

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Traditional, arranged by Eva Cassidy

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Recorded: No info given (released in 1998)

Albumcoverevacassidysongbird

Rating: 98/100 (learn more)

Eva Cassidy is best remembered for her introspective ballad performances—modern-day classics such as "Over the Rainbow," "Autumn Leaves" and "Fields of Gold"—but check out this track if you want to gauge the full vocal power of this prepossessing singer. Cassidy transforms a nostalgia-laden traditional song into a soulful groove number, and does it with such commanding presence that one could envision her pursuing a career as a major R&B diva.

There is much to admire here: Cassidy's bending and stretching of the notes is exemplary, almost a textbook example of American popular vocal phrasing, but there is a larger holistic aspect here that you could easily miss. Cassidy gradually builds this performance, knowing when to hold back and when to go into overdrive. Compare Cassidy's first two choruses, and see how she deepens the emotional contours the second time through. Then, after the guitar solo, she moves up another notch for a harrowing half chorus before shifting back into a whispery tone. But this is just a setup for a heart-wrenching conclusion, in which Cassidy pulls out all the stops, with words that tragically foreshadow her abbreviated future: "I'm going back to see my savior; oh, I'm going back, no more to roam."

I have listened to this track countless times, and it still shakes me up every time I hear it. Yet this take was almost lost on the cutting room floor, and only the intervention of Eva's father Hugh brought this "rough mix" to light. Rough? I'll say.

Reviewer: Ted Gioia

If you liked this track, also check out

Eva Cassidy: Autumn Leaves
Eva Cassidy: Fields of Gold
Tierney Sutton: Cry Me a River

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  • 1 Rich // Mar 24, 2009 at 03:52 AM
    You are right on, Ted. And there are many more tracks with this bittersweet tang to them. What a joy and sorrow to listen to this master!