Side One: Track One (if CDs had sides, anyway): “Hallelujah.” My knee-jerk reaction: Oh, no! Not again! Which upon hearing the song told me that I need to have my inner knee worked on. After calming down and realizing that this was, indeed, not yet another lame cover of the Leonard Cohen-penned song but another song entirely, I laid back to listen to Marca Cassity and by the end of her song of the same title, was not just ready but anxious for what was to follow, for her “Hallelujah” is slightly upbeat, seemingly spiritual, and quite infectious. There seemed to be more than a hint of Native American influence, though what I have heard (beyond rock band Redbone) is limited enough that I question myself. But it was there. The beat. The feel. The simulated chant in the background. Whatever it was, it made me listen closer to what followed.
And what followed convinced me that Marca Cassity is hardly a one trick pony. Besides the fact that she is obviously a songwriter with whom to be reckoned, she writes to the song rather than the genre. Each song surrounds an idea or emotion. Each lives in its own world. And yet taken together, they paint a picture of Cassity's world.
And it is a positive one. “Root,” for instance, cries out for women to embrace individuality. “Bells” honors her Native American heritage (she grew up on a reservation in Oklahoma--- she is Osage). “Hallelujah,” a nod to the power of that which is (the sustaining chord of the organ/keyboard in the background not only supports the spiritual feel but is mesmerizing, as well). “Goodbye” flashes back to modern folk in a Judy Collins kind of way, the message all Cassity. “Raven” uses a choogling beat to excellent effect (the arrangement, especially the vocals, are impressive as well).
The real ear-catcher for me is the soulful “Disasters,” a song which could easily have come from the heydays of Stax and a ballad of the first water. Again, arrangement takes the song over the top, the music beautiful but simple, the vocal arrangement fitting for Cassity's tenor/alto tones. If I had the time, I could easily loop this for an entire afternoon or evening and never tire of it.
I'm going to step out on a limb here and credit producer Julie Wolf for her influence. I am not sure exactly what she did or didn't do but whatever it was I am impressed. Wolf has worked with a number of successful (and probably less than successful) artists and I am sure learned a hell of a lot during her journey. She puts it to good use on Songs From the Well. Very good use.