Songbird, The music of Eva Cassidy

Theatre Severn

Songbird..The music of Eva Cassidy.

19 February 2015

More than twenty years ago I was sat on my patio playing music, singing songs and drinking beer with my friend Dan Cassidy.  He said to me he had a cassette he wanted me to hear. We put it on and when I was lost and deeply transfixed to the haunting sound of this wonderful music I was hearing , he turned to me, in his characteristic slow Washington drawl asked me, “What do you think?”

Who was this songbird? Who could have such a voice? Who could turn my garden, with the sound of her voice on a scratchy tape recorded in Washington, into Eden.It was his sister Eva Cassidy. Unheard of, unsigned and hoping to make it big. Years later..she did.

Tonight’s show, "Songbird, the music of Eva Cassidy," was a tribute to the girl who with her beautiful tones won the hearts of all of us.

Not a fan of the tribute genre and always slightly suspicious that if they weren’t hiding under the banner of some former great would people come out in their droves to see the show?

Ask yourself if you were there tonight, had the show had been called,  “ Sarah Jane Buckley performs,” would you have gone. I as my fellow critiques do too, wonder if you would have been there at all?

That said tonight’s show offered a montage of Eva footage combined with the songs she sang during her famous recording of her album, "Eva Cassidy at the Blues Alley Jazz club in Washington."  With a combination of archive, guess work and poetic licence, the dialogue and songlist was constructed from that night.

Ms. Buckley sang beautifully, powerfully and at some times was able to capture a little of the Eva sparkle, but sadly she was let down a little by her acoustic and lead guitarists. One feels there are better musicians working and singing in the pubs of  Shrewsbury, and they do it for free.

It was easy to forgive relatively minor musical indiscretions initially but when there was a pattern developing, it was becoming a little harder. The vocal on Bill Wither’s , “Ain’t no sunshine,” was great but sadly the guitar work was dodgy and during one solo the lead guitarist either had some sort of memory block or he didn’t know the song at all.

As the great Bob Dylan suggested, Know your song well before you start singing, applicable in this instance to the guitarist. I am however, pleased to report the Keys, Drums and Bass were faultless and tight.

The lighting plan was great, as was the sound, but that magic that grabbed me first in my back garden, twenty odd years ago with Dan and continues to grab me me everytime I hear Eva, failed to appear and at best I felt I was watching a good impression but little more.

But who could ever be Eva but the woman herself? It was a brave gig for Sarah Jane and she rose to the plate and sang like a songbird but maybe just the Sparrow to Eva’s Nightingale.

This is a three star review

Owen Lewis

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Owen Lewis Owen Lewis

Owen Lewis was born fifty something years ago in the land of the black puddings. For the geographically challenged that is in Lancashire. Moving to Shropshire From 1970 Owen was brought up in Church Stretton. His first real job was in radio. After starting on BBC Radio Shropshire he became known on Marcher Sound, broadcasting throughout the North West for several years. After a university degree course in Theatre, Owen became an actor and went on to play "Pirate Bill" in The Alton Towers Hotel. He also made several television appearances. Returning to university he took his PGCE enabling him to teach. That saw him on the Essex coast as a drama teacher and latterly as a Creative Educational Liaison Officer making films and creating new teaching methods to employ on children in need of more help in their fundamental learning skills. Published playwright Owen ultimately wants a house boat in Amsterdam to focus on his work as Playwright and Poet.

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