The saga of Eva Cassidy, the late Washington, D.C., singer who gained fame long after her early passing from melanoma, continues vibrantly on American Tune, a collection of ten more "leftovers" that former bandmates discovered in the past year -- similarly as they did on Imagine, the previous release of great cuts. While she never achieved much more than local recognition in her lifetime, her inspirational legacy is not only rooted in her own story of personal courage but her ability to take songs that have been heard thousands of times and make them sound fresh, exciting, even better than the original.
Just as Sting marveled at her heartbreaking rendition of "Fields of Gold," you can imagine Cyndi Lauper finding joy in the singer's take on "True Colors," which begins softly, with an angelic vocal before the full power of Cassidy's blues-rock vocals and her band take over (that slow build is a Cassidy trademark as well). The fun part of any new Cassidy hodgepodge is pegging the many genres she draws from, almost as if she's thumbing her nose at the record execs who wouldn't sign her because she refused to limit herself to any one style. There's the soul-funk drama of "Drowning in the Sea of Love," the gentle acoustic guitar hymn "The Water Is Wide," and a lively rendition of Ray Charles' "Hallelujah I Love (Him) So."
The introspective Paul Simon tune the album is named for is given a gently powerful reading but lacks the eye-popping emotional power she gives to "God Bless the Child" and "Yesterday," songs you might think you'd heard quite enough versions of. The set closes with the plaintive love song "You Take My Breath Away," well known to folks nowadays from Tuck & Patti's version. Based on the ongoing discovery of more tunes Cassidy no doubt never thought would see the light of day, you can only hope that there are more trunks full of tapes waiting to be mastered and released.