Over the past few months, Cathy Segal-Garcia has found some unique and inviting ways to whet our whistle for her upcoming album The Book of Love. Engaging in some hip, wild mood swings – from soft-spoken/subtle to rousing and hopeful - the endlessly inventive L.A. jazz singer, songwriter and interpreter extraordinaire has run the gamut of emotions while re-imagining for our time still relevant classics by Marvin Gaye (“Inner City Blues”), Cannonball Adderley (“Sermonette”) and a slow-burning meditative medley of The Youngbloods’ “Get Together” and Blind Faith’s “Can’t Find My Way Home.”
Cathy’s perfectly chosen follow-up, a sparse, gently rendered arrangement of Billy Joel’s “And So It Goes,” originated years after those other songs but is timeless in its understanding of heartbreak and the difficulty and need to move on. Written and originally demoed in 1983, the simple piano and vocal ballad – inspired by the traditional Scottish folk song “Barbara Allen” - was the final track on the singer/songwriter’s Grammy nominated 1989 album Storm Front and was a Top 5 Billboard Adult Contemporary hit. Its masterful simplicity has lent itself to numerous versions over the years by jazz, classical, pop, rock and Broadway artists. And now it lends itself perfectly to Cathy’s penchant for using her formidable musical intuitions and soulful dusky vocal magic to explore the human condition.
“I love this song, so beautiful,” she says of “And So It Goes.” “Many times in my singing or writing, I come from a place of open heart…touching vulnerability, sometimes pain, sadness, loneliness…but also a pure love, hope, some faith. I guess I hold all these things in deep respect in humankind. I want to reflect them and let people know that it’s okay to feel these things.”
Just as she did on several of those aforementioned previous singles, Cathy allows herself a great deal of time, space and musical minimalism (arranged by Anthony Wilson) to tap into the deeper meanings (both personal and universal) of the song. For much of its 7-minute plus run time, it’s just her exquisite, plaintive vocals accompanied by Wilson’s gentle guitar lines. As we listen to the opening verse (which begins poetically with “In every heart there is a room/A sanctuary safe and strong”), we might be inclined to think we “get it” – that this will continue as a lovely vocal/guitar duet all the way through.
What we might not expect, and which gives this version its truest transcendence, is the otherworldly appearance of guest vocalist, renowned NYC jazz singer Paul Jost starting in Verse 2. Rather than sing, he chooses to recite it like a poem in a haunting raspy whisper. As the song travels on, building emotional momentum from haunting sorrow to resigned grace to cautious hope, Cathy’s interplay with Jost is fascinating – with her haunting wordless vocals wafting behind his recitations and then the two of them engaging in a slow dance, trading and echoing the key title lines. Perhaps the most heartrending bars here are the ones with no words at all, with Jost creating a sweet, down home earthiness via his harmonica, played eloquently along with Wilson and pianist Josh Nelson, with Cathy’s occasional vocal harmony hues.
As she has done with several other of her recent singles, Cathy has created a unique video collage for “And So It Goes,” featuring images everyday people (including her) going through difficult times along with some lovely nature photography, which synchs exquisitely and powerfully with the evolving nuances of the vocals and instrumental arrangement. It would be easy to infer that, like a lot of releases in 2020/21, it’s an emotional response to the pandemic – but then we realize that this is not the only time in history we’ve felt sorrow and loss and had to find room in our hearts to grieve and love again. As Cathy says, these feelings have been with us since the beginning of time – and it’s okay to allow ourselves to feel them.
“The images I looked for,” she adds, “show to me, the universal emotions, in the young and old, of vulnerability, regret, numbness that pain of loss of love can create, grief…loneliness, and the reality that now you are alone. Sorry-ness, kindness, understanding, deep love. ‘And So It Goes’ is about the inevitability of life moving like this. You can’t always plan your life, You can move forward thru anything, and there’s some underlying comfort in that.”