Cassandra Wilson, Belly Of The Sun

Kevin Whitehead

By Kevin Whitehead

on 05.18.11 in Reviews

Belly Of The Sun

Cassandra Wilson
Few jazz or pop singers ooze through a tune like Wilson

The most acclaimed jazz singer of her time gets back to her Mississippi roots on this 2002 outing, recorded in a train station (and boxcar) in bluestown Clarksdale. The dusky-voiced contralto has the laid-back, sultry thing down — few jazz or pop singers ooze through a tune like her. For local color, Wilson does Mississippi Fred McDowell's "You Got to Move," like a work song, and 1932's sentimental "Darkness on the Delta," effectively straight. It's the lone piano-based track on an album thick with guitars and hand drums. Wilson pulls tunes from all over — a Robert Johnson street cry, James Taylor, middle Dylan, "The Weight," and a mesmerizing, earthbound "Wichita Lineman" — very slow, from his woman's point of view. "Justice" is her artfully constructed bid for slavery reparations, and "Drunk as Cooter Brown" a sharp character sketch. And on Jobim's "Waters of March," she takes an epic run over its elusive lyric.