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Voices from the past

Chris James

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Many of us have diverse tastes in music and I would like us to share the wealth with one another here. This is one of those I'll show you mine if you show me yours moments....ha ha ha. Seriously, I would be interested in what everyone in the forum likes.

Years ago I used to haunt the music scene in Washington D.C. from Blues Alley to the Twist and Shout and Brickskeller. Saturday nights, good company and a cold beer...I saw a lot of singers. Mary Chapin Carpenter, Bryan Bowers...names you may not know. But in the late eighties along came this young lady whose voice could sing just about anything, and in a cabaret setting it was like she was singling just for you.

Eva Cassidy died young of cancer, age 33, tragic. It has been almost eighteen years ago and many of you may remember her slight burst of fame which became an inferno after her death. I still listen to her now and she is my showcase artist for you here on this thread. Her music is on disk and mp3, but a sample on YouTube will draw you in:


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I don't have a clip from that era, but I still remember vividly Joanie Baez performing at Club 47 just off Harvard Square in the late fifties, and a year or so later at the Newport Folk Festival. I grew up on Pete Seeger and social action tunes and still regard that as my musical base.

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Wow, I agree, Chris -- Eva was absolutely terrific. I like her version better than Cindi Lauper's original. If she can sound this good with a $90 microphone in a live nightclub, I bet she'd be unbelievable in a studio.

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Eva Cassidy was magnificent, able to put across a song like not too many other singers. I only regret that I never got to see her live. I remember Mary Chapin Carpenter, and still see Bryan Bowers from time to time. If you want a flashback, Judy Collins is playing at the Ram's Head in Annapolis next weekend.


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For those of you who don't know him, Bryan Bowers is an intense musician. Raised in Virginia, he plays the autoharp, and picks it like a banjo...simply incredible. My favorite Bryan story is when he gave a quick concert in Washington Circle (D.C.) right in the heart of the business district.

It was lunchtime, and the Park Service gave him one microphone and a tiny sound system. All these business people were out in the sunshine eating their lunches when this tall gangly hippie looking person appeared in their midst, stepped up to the mike and began to sing.

His appearance made everyone smile, but his music captured their imagination. Bryan played several songs before he walked around the circle and asked everyone to join him in the next song. The image I have in my mind is Bryan surrounded by a hundred people, men in suits and ties, women in business attire, all holding hands and swaying to the music as they sang May the Circle Be Unbroken.

That was pure Bryan Bowers magic some 40 years ago, and he's still at it:

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Eva Cassidy does one of the better versions of Over the Rainbow and Imagine, which are on her Songbird and Imagine albums along with outstanding covers of other songs like Fields of Gold, Who Knows Where the Time Goes, Early Morning Rain and many more. There are three CDs that capture most of her work.

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