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Album cover


A new album from the late singer Eva Cassidy, whose posthumous success and fame have won her a unique place in the history of popular music, was released in August, 2003. Titled AMERICAN TUNE, for the haunting Paul Simon song that is one of the album's highlights, the CD was eagerly awaited by Eva's millions of fans around the world. In the United Kingdom, where Eva Cassidy is a greatly-beloved artist, the new album was #1 on the official album charts for two consecutive weeks.


The program notes for the album read as follows:

' Some singers need an audience to bring out their best. Not Eva Cassidy. The recording studio was Eva's natural musical home where she was free of the pressures of live performance. She spent countless hours there recording, rehearsing, even helping paint the walls and glue on acoustic tiles. Band rehearsals would be held there and Chris Biondo was in the habit of running a tape while guitarist Keith Grimes, a perfectionist like Eva, would take home the tapes to study the performances.

Since the release of last year's IMAGINE album, Keith discovered rehearsal tapes that had long been packed away and sent them to Blix Street's Bill Straw. Five of the ten tracks on AMERICAN TUNE come from that source. A couple of these are just Eva and Keith, cut while they were working out repertoire for their duo gigs. The remaining five tracks are comprised of three live recordings, one studio demo, and "Yesterday," which was one of the earliest songs that Eva recorded with Chris Biondo.

None of the surviving recordings were multi-track and therefore few corrections could be made for errors or glitches. In most cases what you hear now is how the songs were recorded, in one take and without editing. Yet there is no doubt these informal recordings capture Eva Cassidy's magic in its purest form -- her remarkable voice never fails to send a shiver down the spine or bring a tear to the eye.

                  --Laura Bligh, Eileen White, Martin Jennings '


The ten songs on the album are: (Above right, Eva Cassidy and Chris Biondo outside the Glenn Dale studio where some of these songs were recorded.)

As with the two previous albums, TIME AFTER TIME and IMAGINE, the songs on AMERICAN TUNE come from a variety of sources. "The Water is Wide" and "American Tune" were taped at Pearl's, a storefront restaurant in Annapolis where Eva sometimes performed solo. "It Don't Mean a Thing" was taped at a higher-profile venue, the King of France Tavern at the Maryland Inn, also in Annapolis. The other songs were recorded at Chris Biondo's studio, either in Rockville or in Glenn Dale, Maryland.

The official title of the album is AMERICAN TUNE, but it could also appropriately be called BURIED TREASURE. Until recently the very existence of six of the ten songs on the CD, and all the photos and drawings used in the album's design, was unknown.


In July of 2003, Laura Bligh spoke with Keith Grimes, lead guitarist for the Eva Cassidy Band, about the "buried treasure" he found in his basement.

Keith "The whole time we had the band, I would keep tapes of everything that we did. I wanted to have at least one version of every tune. We sometimes had substitute drummers, and I wanted to be able to play them our version of whatever song it was, and they'd be able to listen to the tapes and play with us. Then there were some things, Eva came to me and wanted to do some songs we didn't do with the band, as duo performances. She would sing them for me, and I played along, trying out some ideas, then I'd take the tape home and work from there. It amounted to a bunch of stuff, by the end. After Eva died I just put it all away, I put it down in my basement. I didn't want to think about it any more.

"As soon as I started to listen to the tapes, I realized there was some really good stuff on there. It was just a matter of weeding through the tapes. My basement is damp, I was afraid some of it might not even play any more, but as it turned out nothing was damaged. I was elated! Here were a lot of songs Eva did that were really good, that I thought would never be available. It was like stumbling on something you thought you were never going to retrieve, like finding a buried treasure. It was a lot of material, about 20 hours of tape.

Band 2002
(At right, the members of the Eva Cassidy Band in 2002. From left to right, Raice McLeod, Keith Grimes, Chris Biondo, and Lenny Williams)

"Some of the performances were recorded better than I remembered. Others, you couldn't really hear the vocals, they had been recorded just with my Walkman recorder. The best of them were from rehearsals. We would record directly onto a DAT [digital audio tape], then Chris would bang me off a cassette copy from the DAT. The original DATs, we used to record over! Everything that was used for the album was done in the studio, and had been on cassette tape. None of it was on multitrack, which means that you can't do anything about any little mistakes.

"Chris helped me transfer the best recordings from tape to CD. We sent a couple of CDs off to Bill Straw [at Blix Street Records]. I guess there's five of those songs on this new album, and he may wind up releasing some of the others later on. I think there are a few more things that people would enjoy hearing. Some of the songs that were really good were ones that had already been on an album in other versions.

"I hope that there will be some more lucky accidents like that, more material coming to light. Though I don't know where it would come from!"

Note: To read another interview with Keith Grimes, from October 1999, click here.

Want to know more? On AMERICAN TUNE page two, graphic designer Eileen White discusses her discovery of the photos and drawings used in the album's design. Page three contains a song-by-song description of the album. Page four will feature reviews of the album.