PopMatters is moving to WordPress. We will publish a few essays daily while we develop the new site. We hope the beta will be up sometime late next week.

Method Actor featuring Eva Cassidy: Method Actor

Alison Wong

Eva Cassidy

Method Actor

Display Artist: Method Actor Featuring Eva Cassidy
Label: BLP

It's understandable that the death of an artist will typically trigger a chain reaction: devoted fans will seek solace in tribute albums and previously unreleased works that recording companies will scurry up in order to assist with the grieving and preserve the legacy. It's a win-win situation all around. The self-titled album Method Actor (originally released in 1998) is one such beneficiary caught in this chain reaction. There is no plausible reason why you should have heard of this one-album band. Headed by songwriter David Christopher, the band produced music that was forgivably amateurish: a showcase of songs that never matured past their infancy by a late '80s soft-rock outfit mimicking various styles with little flair or originality. This album, never before released on CD, is meant to be celebrated only as a posthumous tribute to singer Eva Cassidy, who provides the vocals -- lead and back up -- in addition to the drawings that function as the album cover.

Cassidy passed away in 1996 at the age of 33 after losing the battle with melanoma. Her career spanned only two albums: The Other Side (1992) recorded with Chuck Brown and a solo album Live at Blues Alley (1996). Since then, five posthumous albums have been released and she is fast reaching the cult status attributed to the likes of Nick Drake. Only 1,000 original recordings of Method Actor were released on vinyl and cassette and rumor has it that these have commanded up to $500 on Ebay. For those trying to put together Cassidy's short career, this album fits like a missing jigsaw piece, but it's not an album that could be said to really define her. It packs the raw emotional power on tracks such as "How Will It End", but lacks the subtle emotional flecks and wistful nuances that are apparent on later works. Those in search of the definitive Eva Cassidy should listen to her efforts on albums such as Songbird or Live at Blues Alley.

Fans of Cassidy will get a kick out of hearing these early attempts, particularly given her trademark reticence towards performing. Her talent, even on this debut album at the age of 25, is undeniable and it's abundantly clear that the music does not do her voice justice. The downside is that the songs themselves are so below par that you really have to work to overlook them in order to appreciate Cassidy's voice. Though irritatingly unoriginal, the songs serve to showcase the breadth of her voice and the multiple musical styles highlight her versatility as both a singer and musician. As Cassidy's first recording attempt, fans will be interested to learn that it was through Method Actor that Cassidy met musician and producer Chris Biondi who later introduced her to Chuck Brown.

It is no secret that it was this versatility that prevented Cassidy from succeeding as a solo artist in the recording industry. Record labels couldn't market her and she refused to comply. It has been suggested that this was perhaps a strategy on Cassidy's part; that given her reluctance to perform live, this was her way of resisting fame. She is entirely convincing on "Getting Out", the opening track -- a sauntering blues number where she shows off a sultry, throaty voice to match the brassy accompaniment that is both seductive and raw. By contrast, her musicianship is most apparent in "Laugh with Me" -- a gospel-influenced song where the back up harmonies she sings to her own vocals blend together to produce shimmering timbres and complex textures that's aurally stunning. She really lets it fly on "Forever", a ballad that allows you to hear the clarity and power of her voice and on "Little Children", she takes sandpaper to her voice, giving it a rough edge simulating heartfelt emotion.

Richard Harrington of the Washington Post reported in August 2002 of a lawsuit instigated by Cassidy's parents and Blix Street records against the re-release of Method Actor for the misleading representation of Cassidy's name that they feared would tarnish the memory of the singer and temper future sales of her other albums. Fans will no doubt argue that, regardless of logistics, they need this album. As Cassidy sings on the soul style track "When It's Too Late", "Memories can mend a broken heart / A human life so badly torn apart". How absolutely fitting.

Please Donate to Help Save PopMatters

PopMatters have been informed by our current technology and hosting provider that we have less than a month, until November 6, to move PopMatters off their service or we will be shut down. We are moving to WordPress and a new host, but we really need your help to save the site.





The 13 Greatest Horror Directors of All Time

In honor of Halloween, here are 13 fascinating fright mavens who've made scary movies that much more meaningful.


British Jazz and Soul Artists Interpret the Classics on '​Blue Note Re:imagined'

Blue Note Re:imagined provides an entrance for new audiences to hear what's going on in British jazz today as well as to go back to the past and enjoy old glories.


Bill Murray and Rashida Jones Add Another Shot to 'On the Rocks'

Sofia Coppola's domestic malaise comedy On the Rocks doesn't drown in its sorrows -- it simply pours another round, to which we raise our glass.


​Patrick Cowley Remade Funk and Disco on 'Some Funkettes'

Patrick Cowley's Some Funkettes sports instrumental renditions from between 1975-1977 of songs previously made popular by Donna Summer, Herbie Hancock, the Temptations, and others.


The Top 10 Definitive Breakup Albums

When you feel bombarded with overpriced consumerism disguised as love, here are ten albums that look at love's hangover.


Dustin Laurenzi's Natural Language Digs Deep Into the Jazz Quartet Format with 'A Time and a Place'

Restless tenor saxophonist Dustin Laurenzi runs his four-piece combo through some thrilling jazz excursions on a fascinating new album, A Time and a Place.


How 'Watchmen' and 'The Boys' Deconstruct American Fascism

Superhero media has a history of critiquing the dark side of power, hero worship, and vigilantism, but none have done so as radically as Watchmen and The Boys.


Floodlights' 'From a View' Is Classicist Antipodal Indie Guitar Pop

Aussie indie rockers, Floodlights' debut From a View is a very cleanly, crisply-produced and mixed collection of shambolic, do-it-yourself indie guitar music.


CF Watkins Embraces a Cool, Sophisticated Twang on 'Babygirl'

CF Watkins has pulled off the unique trick of creating an album that is imbued with the warmth of the American South as well as the urban sophistication of New York.


Helena Deland Suggests Imagination Is More Rewarding Than Reality on 'Something New'

Canadian singer-songwriter Helena Deland's first full-length release Someone New reveals her considerable creative talents.


While the Sun Shines: An Interview with Composer Joe Wong

Joe Wong, the composer behind Netflix's Russian Doll and Master of None, articulates personal grief and grappling with artistic fulfillment into a sweeping debut album.


Peter Frampton Asks "Do You Feel Like I Do?" in Rock-Solid Book on Storied Career

British rocker Peter Frampton grew up fast before reaching meteoric heights with Frampton Comes Alive! Now the 70-year-old Grammy-winning artist facing a degenerative muscle condition looks back on his life in his new memoir and this revealing interview.


Bishakh Som's 'Spellbound' Is an Innovative Take on the Graphic Memoir

Bishakh's Som's graphic memoir, Spellbound, serves as a reminder that trans memoirs need not hinge on transition narratives, or at least not on the ones we are used to seeing.


Gamblers' Michael McManus Discusses Religion, Addiction, and the Importance of Writing Open-Ended Songs

Seductively approachable, Gamblers' sunny sound masks the tragedy and despair that populate the band's debut album.


Peter Guralnick's 'Looking to Get Lost' Is an Ode to the Pleasures of Writing About Music

Peter Guralnick's homage to writing about music, 'Looking to Get Lost', shows how good music writing gets the music into the readers' head.


In Praise of the Artifice in George Cukor's 'Sylvia Scarlett'

George Cukor's gender-bending Sylvia Scarlett proposes a heroine who learns nothing from her cross-gendered ordeal.


The Cure: Ranking the Albums From 13 to 1

Just about every Cure album is worth picking up, and even those ranked lowest boast worthwhile moments. Here are their albums, spanning 29 years, presented from worst to best.


The 20 Best Episodes of 'Star Trek: The Original Series'

This is a timeless list of 20 thrilling Star Trek episodes that delight, excite, and entertain, all the while exploring the deepest aspects of the human condition and questioning our place in the universe.

Collapse Expand Reviews

Collapse Expand Features

PM Picks
Collapse Expand Pm Picks

© 1999-2020 PopMatters.com. All rights reserved.
PopMatters is wholly independent, women-owned and operated.