Monday, May 02, 2011

Eva Cassidy, Clare Bowditch, and the Fields of Melbourne

Beloved came home from the Eva tribute breathless with excitement, almost teary with emotion and told me firmly I was to go see the final show Sunday afternoon. She would mind the kids and it would be done. I simply could not miss it.

Eva Cassidy has perhaps the most beautiful voice I've heard. Her story is told elsewhere, but it is short and tragic, and reflects not only the essential unfairness of life but also the cold, anti-creative machine that is the music industry. I discovered her posthumously, like almost everyone, at the tail end of my time in London.

I am a closet singer. Correct that, there is nothing closet about it, I've had lessons and sang a song I had written at my wedding. But closet in the sense that if I had half Eva's (or Clare's) voice I would be weaving tales of woe through the venues of northern Melbourne on a regular basis.

My version of crooning was wrapped up in my early romantic haze with Beloved. The first night we got it together, I asked if I could get her something, she joked 'sing me a lullaby', and I picked up the guitar in the dark and warbled out 'Van Deimen's Land'. She wrote home about that effort! The night before she was to leave, on a separate journey to our chosen home in Melbourne, we huddled together and rocked on the step of the bathroom, and it was 'Waltzing Matilda' (the sad, reflective version not the rugby cheer squad version!).

As she left she handed me a present, Songbird, and told me that when we met she expected me to have learned, and to sing to her, Eva's version of Fields of Gold. And I did. And we are married with Bear and Mitts. So there is back story...

I couldn't help tearing up in that song, beautifully rendered. Clare did a wonderful job. The show intersperses songs with anecdotes about Eva, and some from Clare's life that are a bit like the one above, symbolic encounters that give subjective response to the narrative. The musicians were exceptional- you could hate the songs and Clare's voice (well you would be a robot, but anyway...) and still enjoy seeing several incredible musicians. This was perhaps the only time I can remember when I had an emotional - in the soulful, balladic sense- response to drumming!

When I bought Clare's album afterwards, and asked her to dedicate it to Bear and Mitts, she added 'Top Dad'. I was rather chuffed. I decided to spare her the story about how she got the last 2 car seats in Darebin right in front of Bear in the queue.

I came home and picked up the guitar. I was still singing in the car this morning. Dreams and all that. Although the conclusion I reached is that with musicianship like that around I would do better to put my creative energies into bonsai.