Dreamy Soul

There's not one piece of filler or a single weak cut on Eva Cassidy's posthumously released Time After Time. (She succumbed to cancer in 1996 at age 33.) Simply put, the woman had soul.

Performing folk, blues, jazz and pop songs rich in melody and natural imagery, she conveys a revelatory sense of wonder more commonly associated with children. She brings a sweet, trusting quality to Roger Henderson's country ballad "Penny to My Name" and unveils an almost reverent sense of joy on the Mack Gordon/Harry Warren standard "At Last" and especially on Joni Mitchell's "Woodstock" (RealAudio excerpt).

Her smile-inducing stroll down memory lane on Harlan Howard's "I Wish I Was a Single Girl Again" (RealAudio excerpt) is a jazzy treat. Without vanquishing Joe Cocker's definitive version of Wayne Carson Thompson's "The Letter" (RealAudio excerpt), she rocks it with enough conviction to make it her own.

Lenny Williams' elegant piano interludes intensify her quietly dramatic reading of Bill Withers' "Ain't No Sunshine," which Cassidy delivers like the gospel truth according to a broken heart. Yellowjackets bassist Jimmy Haslip guests on the bluesy "Easy Street Dream," which finds Cassidy belting high notes with exultant, sky-kissing fervor.

Records on which singers interpret standards inherently risk entering the stagnant "easy listening" shallows, but Time After Time is a liberating change from the ululating divas who've dominated pop culture in recent years.