"Deep and dark are my true love's eyes,
Blacker still is the winter's turning
As the sadness of parting proves."
That is Eva Cassidy's take on "Dark Eyed Molly'. The recording is found on her album, American Tune. "Dark Eyed Molly" is a reconstructed folk song first written and recorded in 1976 by Scottish singer/songwriter Archie Fisher, M.B.E.
All right, so why do I feature this song? It's not a well known song-unlike many of the songs that Eva Cassidy sung. Her performance is quite good, but there any many better known songs by her.
So, let me elaborate further. In the late 1980's the British folk/rock group, Fairport Convention became my favorite current group-but it actually took me a little while to warm up to the Simon Nicol version of the group. In the 1960's, Simon Nicol was originally the group's non singing rhythm guitarist-and the the group originally was fronted by folk legends Sandy Denny (a intense singer very much like Eva Cassidy), and Richard Thompson. The lineup for the group changed many times, the group's first 9 albums boasted eight different lineups- that is part of the group's charm-but truth be told , that as enjoyable as all of the group's work is-most of the group's reputation rests on the three remarkable albums that the Sandy Denny/Richard Thompson lineups released in 1969. Indeed, Eva Cassidy recorded a Sandy Denny song from this period-"Who Knows Where the Times Goes".
Over the years during in the 1970's, Simon Nicol began singing more, and due to attrition by 1985-he had become the group's main lead singer,and somehow, over time he had became a better singer, with a deeper voice. Under his leadership, the group's repertoire, now became mostly modern folk songs written by others, as opposed to self-penned songs, or folk songs of the 1800's, that had been found on most of Fairport albums from 1960's and 1970's.
Anyway so "Dark Eyed Molly" was recorded for Fairport's late 1988 album-Red and Gold.
" The compatibility of unrequited love and strong drink has been the theme of many a traditional song. Speaking from experience, it doesn't help in the long run, but think of the songs we'd miss without the experiment. The melody is that of a Basque lullaby and the words are my reconstruction from a line or two of Gaelic poetry." -Archie Fisher
Archie Fisher wrote about this about "Dark Eyed Molly -which is a song about how unrequited love often makes you want to sit in a bar-and get drunk. It's a powerful emotion- that I have experienced many times, even though I never spent any time in a bar.
I felt that way about some women in 1989-although not very strongly-but she did have dark eyes-so the song seemed appropriate.
Well, apparently two years later, on April 28, 1991 Eva Cassidy, myself and 100 or so others saw Fairport Convention perform the song at a concert at the Birchmere night club in Alexandria, VA .
Laura Bligh's website says that Eva got the idea to perform "Dark Eyed Molly", from having seen Fairport Convention play the song at the Birchmere. Now it might have been another year that she saw them, but 1991 was the only year they performed that song at the Birchmere. So perhaps , Eva Cassidy was only a few feet away from me that night and I had no idea who she was. At the time she had not released any records. Over the next few years, she recorded or sung a remarkably varied repertoire of songs and excelled at singing in many genres. Sadly, illness overtook her and in November 2, 1996 Eva died at age 33 of melanoma. She never became famous in her lifetime, but became so in 2001 after Great Britain took her to heart after hearing her on Terry Wogan show and on the Top of the Pops.
Eva's vocals combine purity, power and interpretive ability. The purity is probably what awes many listeners when they first her one of her recordings. Their is no emotional separation between the singer and the song. She is not trying to have a hit-she is just singing a song.
What I find unusual about her is that she covered so many well known songs (many of which have only been sung well by their original artists) -and yet most of her versions stand up well to the originals-that is very hard to do.
I can relate to Eva Cassidy in another small way. She was born in the same city I was, a few weeks after I was, and she left the Washington area the same week I did-she left by passing away, and I by moving away.