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Glamoured (2003)

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Cassandra Wilson

Cassandra Wilson has garnered a deserving reputation for her soulful, visionary reads of songs by legendary composers old and new, from Robert Johnson to Van Morrison. On Glamoured, Wilson composed half the album, and her songs are as provocative and deserve the same weight of grace critically afforded her covers. She uses her trademark fluid, smoky delivery to redefine songs such as the old soul nugget "If Loving You Is Wrong"; the poignancy it was written with tells of a woman lost in the delirium of a forbidden love with a married man. The ache and euphoria in her voice shot through with producer Fabrizio Sotti's stunning acoustic guitar interplay is nearly overwhelming in its emotion. Her Afro-Caribbean read of Bob Dylan's "Lay Lady Lay" is a different -- and perhaps better -- version than the original. It doesn't weep and it doesn't get bogged down in its melody; it is shot through with a smoldering drone and eclectic polyrhythms that reinvent it harmonically. Willie Nelson's "Crazy" is kissed with the same elegance and soul that her version of "Tupelo Honey" was. But it is on Muddy Waters' "Honey Bee" and Abbey Lincoln's "Throw It Away," which closes the album, that Wilson offers her greatest gift: that of an improvisational blues and jazz singer who understands these songs to be living embodiments of still developing traditions. Recorded in Jackson, MS, her hometown, these songs are shot through with mischief; a controlled, winking sensuality; greasy, rollicking, and syncopated rhythms; and melody lines to kill for. Wilson's songs, particularly "I Want More" and "What Is It?" with their funky backbeats and jagged verses, are seemingly new forms for the pop song, while "Broken Drum," "Sleight of Time," and "Heaven Knows" could have been written for Nina Simone, such are their out-of-the-ages, folk-infused jazzy cadences, but Wilson makes them unclassifiable in terms of any time but the present and she is working out new forms for color, phrasing, and rhythmic interplay for her voice. Glamoured, like its Gaelic definition, is the sound of the supernatural in a human being. ~ Thom Jurek