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07/17/12

Cassandra Wilson
Another Country
E1 Music

Cassandra Wilson has never been one for grandeur or flash, but even by her restrained standards Another Country is a remarkably subdued affair, rather like 40 minutes of soft, reinvigorating rain. Recorded in Florence, it is her first album for a new label after a two-decade relationship with Blue Note, and her first studio collaboration with Fabrizio Sotti, the Italian-born, New York-based guitarist best known for his hip-hop productions and work with the likes of Foxy Brown and Whitney Houston. Fittingly, many of the 10 songs—the majority written or co-written by Wilson—concern themselves with endings, beginnings and enlivening discoveries.

Wilson’s slightly scorched, amber-hued voice remains inimitably stunning, but there is added depth, a heightened sense of raw honesty that mirrors the hushed splendor of Shirley Horn. Yet despite the shimmering beauty of her performances, Another Country will likely be remembered less as the start of a new chapter in her storied career than as the album that brought Sotti’s estimable jazz talents to a wider audience.

Co-producer with Wilson and co-writer on five of the tracks, Sotti contributes two additional selections, including the gorgeously ruminative instrumental “Letting You Go,” his exquisite guitar work echoing the melodic purity of his hero, Wes Montgomery. Only once, in closing, does the album’s pulse quicken, as Wilson blends with the young members of the NOCCA (New Orleans Center for Creative Arts) Chamber Choir for the sunrise-cheery “Olomuroro,” co-written with Yoruban percussionist Olalekham Babalola and based on the allegorical West African fable of a seductive, child-taunting goblin who is thwarted by a cunning, caring parent.

Originally published in July/August 2012
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