Cassandra Wilson: The Weight

Track

The Weight

Artist

Cassandra Wilson (vocals)

CD

Belly of the Sun (Blue Note 35072)

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Musicians:

Cassandra Wilson (vocals),

Marvin Sewell (guitar), Kevin Breit (guitar), Mark Peterson (bass), Xavyon Jamison (drums), Cyro Baptista (percussion), Jeffrey Haynes (percussion)

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Composed by Robbie Robertson

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Recorded: Clarksdale, Mississippi and New York, 2001

Albumcovercassandrawilsonbellyofthesun

Rating: 95/100 (learn more)

It's hard to top The Band's performance of this anthem on Martin Scorsese's The Last Waltz from 1978. Then again, Cassandra Wilson never gets caught up in that game called "Can You Top This?" She doesn't try to out-sing or out-dazzle anyone. This song might have shown up anonymously as a lead sheet in her mailbox for all the deference she gives to the original version. She puts the load right on herself, and carries the burden of reinventing a familiar melody, which now takes on rich autumnal colors and a reflective air one would hardly find in arena-sized rock music. Her vocals float in and out through sound clouds of percussion and guitar, as Wilson adds whispers, growls, and moments of lingering breathiness after the phrases have ended. The tempo is just a little faster than a ballad, and the occasional reharmonization reminds the listener that this is a jazz singer. Yet by the time Cassandra finishes with a song like this one, well known from radio airplay, the genre names fall away, and we are left with that high term of praise (associated with Duke Ellington) that simply says this is music beyond category.

Reviewer: Ted Gioia

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