Friday, July 30, 2010

You First: You Gotta Move

Cassandra Wilson: You Gotta Move


You Gotta Move is an old song, originally by Mississippi Fred McDowell. There are any number of cover versions, done as gospel, blues, and rock n roll. The Rolling Stones and Aerosmith have both done versions. And yet, at its heart, this is one of the simplest songs you will ever hear. There is barely anything to the lyrics, and the song moves along on a slow blues groove that is almost unchanging. So what is the appeal?

Actually, the simplicity is the source of the song’s power. You Gotta Move is a chant, a plea for mercy at the moment of judgment. Cassandra Wilson understands this, and strips the song down to its essentials. There is the groove, played first on solo guitar. When the percussion joins in, it’s not even a full drum set, but just a plastic tub, playing not much more than a heartbeat. There are handclaps, echoing the heartbeat, and that’s it for instrumentation. The background vocals make this a shared experience, but also emphasize that the song is a chant. Nothing else is needed. The power of the song comes through loud and clear.

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