The Eva Cassidy album Songbird was released on Didgeridoo Records in 1998 - two years after Cassidy died of cancer. All of the songs on the album can be found on previous releases - Eva by Heart (1998), Live at Blues Alley (1998) and The Other Side (1995, a duet album with Chuck Brown). However, for some songs, other recordings have been chosen for this album. Cassidy sings lead vocals on all the songs and plays acoustic guitar on most of the tracks.

Labelling the album with one genre is not easy, to say the least. All of the songs on the album are cover versions, but in a whole different galaxy from the A1-does-a-remake-of-"Uptown Girl" kind of cover. It takes only the first song of the album, a soft, sad and scintillating version of Sting's Fields of Gold, to figure that much out. Cassidy adds to every song, making both the music and lyrics her own and, considering the eclectic choice of material for the album, seems to have had a special sense for finding the common ground.

Cassidy makes folk sound like gospel, gospel sound like jazz, and gives straight pop a hint of folk... And it's not only the singing style, Cassidy also arranged several of the songs, and the choice of accompanying instruments is both original and successful. From the jazzy trumpet of "Wade in the Water" through the folk-like fiddle of "I Know You By Heart" and the bluesy guitar of "People Get Ready" to the Mahalia Jackson-esque hammond organ of "Oh, Had I a Golden Thread", the interpretations are done with smarts and with respect. I have no idea whether Seeger has heard Cassidy's version, and I am not quite sure whether he would recognize his own song at first listening. But I like to think he'd be thrilled to hear his own work performed with so much conviction, love and intensity.

Personally, I find most of the album brilliant - my least favorite song here is actually "Autumn Leaves", not because it's bad, and Cassidy sings it beautifully, rather because I find it the least original - maybe that's because it's one of those songs so many female vocalists choose when they feel like proving they have a voice for jazz. "Over the Rainbow", on the other hand, is a whole other story - to think a singer existed that could actually make me want to listen to that song...

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