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Radioville: Cassandra Wilson, “Another Country” (E One Music)

July 7, 2012

Cassandra! I won’t even make you listen to the WDCB review this week!

In a career full of departures, Cassandra Wilson may never have made one quite as self-affirming as her new album, Another Country. It’s not the kind of departure that leaps out at you, like her genre-bending masterpiece from 1993, Blue Light Til Dawn, or even her T Bone Burnett-produced blues-rock album from 2006, Thunderbird. But working with co-producer and guitarist  Fabrizio Sotti, on her first album following her long tenure with Blue Note, Wilson turns the page of her remarkable career with decisive strength.

Recorded in Italy for her own Mississippi-based label and released on E One Music, Another Country is an album of original, guitar-based songs, performed without Wilson’s usual cast of players. It’s not the first time she has recorded her own songs, nor is it the first time she has teamed with Sotti, who produced her so-so 2003 album, Glamoured. But at the age of 56, resettled in New Orleans, she sounds both more relaxed than ever, and more rejuvenated, floating over Brazilian and Spanish rhythms and blues changes, singing of love and new beginnings and a red guitar.

As great a stylist as she is with her deep, lustrous tones, Wilson invests so much in mood and texture and so little in that thing we call swing, her songs can sometimes fuse together. On Another Country, she sustains a shimmering romantic mood, using instrumentals by Sotti to connect songs and a slow, introspective cover of “O Sole Mio” as an expressive anchor. But the individual songs stand out, “No More Blues” with its accordion and funkish electric bass, “Olomuror” with its children’s choir, and  the title song with its clipped percussion and sighing electronic tones.

Wilson has made greater albums, but I can’t remember one that went down as smoothly and infectiously as this one. Her ability to reinvent herself, not in obvious Madonna-like fashion, but in the most natural ways imaginable, should inspire artists of all stylistic stripes and colors.

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