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Mississippi Yearning

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Cassandra Wilson continues to surprise listeners with her clever and sensuous vocal interpretations. On her latest album, Glamoured, Wilson, one of our most gifted jazz vocalists, maintains her avant-garde style by including songs of her own with those not usually considered “proper” sources of jazz material. There’s Muddy Waters’s “Honey Bee,” Bob Dylan’s “Lay Lady Lay” and Percy Sledge’s “If Loving You Is Wrong (I Don’t Want to Be Right).” Wilson demonstrates how much an evolved and envelope-pushing artist can wring from almost any song. She recorded the album, her fourteenth, in her hometown, Jackson, Mississippi.

Essence: You also recorded your last CD, Belly of the Sun, in Mississippi. What drew you back down south?
Cassandra Wilson: It was a voice I heard. I wanted to see how the musicians, who had never recorded there, would respond to the environment. I’m always a lot more relaxed when I’m home, plus I get to see my brother and my uncles and cousins. While I was recording, people who’ve known me since I was an infant came into the studio and offered their critiques.

Essence: You’re known for choosing novel and intriguing songs to record. What attracts you to them?
Wilson: “Lay Lady Lay” gives me an opportunity to play with gender. Am I singing it to a woman? Am I singing it to a man I’m calling Lady, or am I singing to myself? I recorded “If Loving You Is Wrong’’ because my mother used to play the Percy Sledge version over and over again. It was kind of scary when you think about what those lyrics were saying. You have to have lived some and be ready to testify when you sing that song.

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