‘Glamoured’: Cassandra Wilson’s Immersive, Spellbinding Classic

Eclectic and seductive, ‘Glamoured’ remains a potent crystallisation of Cassandra Wilson’s unique style, and a key release in the singer’s canon.

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Cover: Courtesy of Blue Note Records

First released on October 7, 2003, Glamoured was singer Cassandra Wilson’s sixth album for Blue Note Records. Born in Jacksonville, Mississippi, Wilson was 38 years old when she joined Blue Note, in 1993, after the company’s then-president, Bruce Lundvall, brought her to the label. By this point she was already a rising star of the jazz world, having impressed with seven very varied albums for German indie label JMT, released between 1986 and 1992, which showed that she wasn’t beholden to the standard repertoire and brought something fresh and cutting-edge to the genre.

Listen to Glamoured on Apple Music and Spotify.

Wilson launched the Blue Note phase of her career with the acclaimed Blue Light ’Til Dawn. It was a breathtaking album that demonstrated how Wilson could use her sultry voice, with its smoky, caressing tones, to take songs from a variety of vastly different writers (from Joni Mitchell and Robert Johnson to Van Morrison and Hoagy Carmichael) and transform them into profound expressions of love and life that seemed to emanate from her own soul. Her ability to make any song seem deeply personal and like something she had written herself became Wilson’s hallmark, and she continued to impress with her recordings for Blue Note throughout the rest of the 90s.

Eclectic covers in diverse styles

2002’s Belly Of The Sun was Wilson’s first album of the new millennium and the second consecutive album that she produced herself. She recorded part of it in her native Mississippi, where she would return to record Glamoured a year later. The sessions took place at Sonic Temple studio between December 2002 and March 2003, and the contributing musicians included noted French harmonica player Gregoire Maret, plus guitarists Brandon Ross and Fabrizio Sotti. From the world of contemporary jazz, Wilson enlisted the help of bassist Reginald Veal and drummer Terri Lyne Carrington.

As with her previous Blue Note albums, Glamoured proved to be an eclectic collection. There were several covers of songs by well-known tunesmiths and all of them were deconstructed by Wilson in her uniquely indelible way. Sting’s poignant “Fragile” is hauntingly reworked, while Bob Dylan’s classic “Lay Lady Lay” is revamped as a quirky number with a jaunty percussive backbeat. More subdued is a delicate reading of Willie Nelson’s evergreen country song “Crazy,” which Wilson makes her own with a gorgeously sensual yet understated performance. Less well-known is jazz singer Abbey Lincoln’s “Throw It Away,” reconfigured into a skeletal arrangement in which Wilson’s plangent voice is accompanied by Reginald Veal’s eloquent acoustic bass.

Another cover comes in the shape of Muddy Waters’ “Honey Bee,” rendered as a countrified ramshackle blues with Brandon Ross adding to the rural quality of the performance with his twanging banjo parts.

“If Loving You Is Wrong” is Wilson’s distinctive take on the Homer Banks-Carl Hampton-Raymond Jackson-penned 70s soul classic which was a hit first for singer Luther Ingram in 1972, when it was released as “(If Loving You Is Wrong) I Don’t Want To Be Right.” Wilson gives this steamy tale of adultery and illicit love a slightly Latin-infused slant with its Spanish guitar filigrees – played by Fabrizio Sotti, who also delivers a fine solo – and gentle, undulating percussion.

A potent crystallization

The six remaining songs on Glamoured were all originals. The dreamy “ Sleight Of Time,” the more urgent “What Is It?” and the lonesome locomotive blues, “On This Train” (which features Wilson on guitar), were all co-written by the singer with Sotti, who also co-produced the album. Sotti also contributed to the frenetic “I Want More,” co-authored with Wilson and drummer Terri Lyne Carrington, and featuring Gregoire Moiret’s wailing harmonica.

Maret’s dancing chromatic harmonica is more lyrical on the sensuous and reposeful declaration of love “Heaven Knows,” one of two songs composed by Wilson alone. The other is “Broken Drum,” a slow, simmering number in which jazz, Latin and folk music collide irresistibly.

With its mesmeric mesh of styles, all unified by Wilson’s husky, seductive, contralto voice, Glamoured remains a potent crystallization of her unique style and a key entry in the singer’s canon. Its unusual title took inspiration from the poetry of Irish poet WB Yeats, who used the word in its original Gaelic definition, describing the effect of being whisked away in a dream-like state by fairies. Certainly, it’s an apt title as Wilson creates an immersive and spellbinding musical experience on an album that hit No.2 on Billboard’s Top Jazz Albums list.

Sixteen years on from its original release, fans have the opportunity to re-evaluate Glamoured on a double-vinyl reissue mastered from the recently-discovered original analogue tapes. It’s one of 18 titles released in Blue Note’s ongoing 2019 Tone Poet Audiophile Vinyl Reissue Series, for which noted mastering engineer Kevin Gray and producer Joe “Tone Poet” Harley have produced definitive, high-quality editions of the iconic jazz label’s classic albums. It stands alongside Wayne Shorter’s Etcetera and Chick Corea’s Now He Sings, Now He Sobs as another work destined to impress the audiophiles among Blue Note fans.

Listen to Glamoured on Apple Music and Spotify.

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