Album Review: Eva Cassidy & The London Symphony Orchestra - 'I Can Only Be Me'

3 March 2023 | 1:44 pm | Staff Writer

Eva Cassidy was one of the great singers of our generation.

Pic by Walter Wunderlich

Pic by Walter Wunderlich

More Eva Cassidy More Eva Cassidy

On a gloomy day in late May 1996, Eva Cassidy and her bandmate Chris Biondo were on the road to a remote factory in rural Virginia with the goal of collecting copies of her new record Live At Blues Alley. Funded in full by Cassidy herself, using cash from her day job in a plant nursery, it was the second release in almost a decade for Eva, and while the pair didn’t know it at the time, it would be the final record that Eva would ever make.

27 years later, and the acclaimed singer-songwriter, who passed away of melanoma cancer at age 33 (just 10 months after recording the live album she and Biondo had driven out to pick up that day), has gifted the world with a hauntingly beautiful new posthumous record I Can Only Be Me, thanks to a landmark collaboration with The London Symphony Orchestra

Where previous posthumous releases for the American artist, like 1997’s Eva By Heart and 2000’s No Boundaries showcased the raw talent and emotional depth of Cassidy, highlighting her one-of-a-kind voice with a purity and clarity that was both angelic and soulful, 2023’s release with The London Symphony Orchestra provides a previously unheard side of Eva’s work.

Arranged and composed by Christopher Willis (Schmigadoon!, Death Of Stalin) and William Ross (Star Wars, Harry Potter) the project was made possible thanks to recent advances in machine learning audio restoration technology; the very same platforms and processes used in the 2021 The Beatles: Get Back film. Cassidy’s original vocal parts have been isolated and painstakingly restored and enhanced to reveal previously unheard levels of clarity and depth. The result is an emotive, atmospheric album, familiar yet different, lush soundscapes accompanying pristine vocals.

Iconic Eva Cassidy tracks like Songbird and Autumn Leaves, once a seamless combination of folk, blues, jazz and gospel, now stand as beautiful, larger-than-life compositions, deeply rich in texture; so grand that they wouldn’t feel misplaced on a classic Bond soundtrack. 

While it can be easy to argue that much of what made Cassidy’s work so special and so beloved was the simplicity; tasteful, resourceful (real instruments instead of synths) and never flashy, it’s almost impossible to imagine a world in which the tracks on I Can Only Be Me weren’t “meant to be” coupled with strings. For an artist like Cassidy, who was well known for being introverted and quiet, the collaboration with one of the world’s leading orchestras seems almost antithetical to what she stood for as an artist. But there’s no denying the perfect synergy between voice and arrangement on the record.

Don't miss a beat with our FREE daily newsletter

You’ve Changed - which was originally recorded for Eva’s Live At Blues Alley release - manages to retain the original magic that made it so revered, but the genius work of Willis and Ross has elevated it to new heights. It's a theme that runs across the entire record. 

Listening to I Can Only Be Me, where guitar lines have been stripped and replaced by moving arrangements, it’s immediately obvious that Eva Cassidy was one of the great singers of our generation, and the new record has managed to not only capture the essence of Eva, but highlight what made her such an incredible artist from the beginning. 

Eva Cassidy’s posthumous record ‘I Can Only Be Me’ is out now through Blix Street Records and can be streamed online now