Cassie Morgan | Pine So Sweet (s/r)

cd_morgan.jpgHere I am cozying up to the kind of jazz-blues hybrid that made Nina Simone’s catalog a tour de force.

 

 

 

 

 

 

If you judge a song by its first 20 seconds, you’ll be expecting some gritty frontier music from Cassie Morgan. But that’s not what she had in mind, and as "Doubt of Sy" unfolded, being wrong felt very right. When that jazz kit kicked in and a dark jazz vibe overtook the song, I couldn’t help be pleasantly surprised. I came in expecting 16 Horsepower, and here I am cozying up to the kind of jazz-blues hybrid that made Nina Simone’s catalog a tour de force. But this was no Nina Simone singing; there was a different persona directing these songs, compelling in its own way.

To say Cassie Morgan is "breathy" doesn’t do her vocals justice. Her phrasing is lyrical in all the best ways, so when the instrumental backing switches from high plains jazz to full-on ’60s post-bebop, she sounds like an elegant mix of Nina Perrson and Erykah Badu. Melodically, Morgan’s delivery is dead on, perfectly paired, given the band is so tightly adjacent, sounding like Digable Planets in their heyday. So when Morgan goes spare using only guitar, voice, and glockenspiel for "Paper Leaves," the beauty of her restraint becomes ethereal. The ambient sounds of Chicago’s streets and a slight labor to her delivery are the only things that bind this song to dust it was ultimately born of. That feeling continues until the opening of "Pine So Sweet," which honors the real hill country blues of John Lee Hooker and R. L. Burnside, in a slow stomp that would make Bonnie Raitt curse the day Cassie Morgan was born, ’cause everything Bonnie has been touted as, Pine So Sweet absolutely owns, and is faithful to. It’s something to be envied. A | Willie E. Smith

RIYL: John Parish & Polly Jean Harvey, Sarah Harmer, Shannon Wright

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