”A mouthful of glory”
Nelson Brill

July 2004

“If only one could be sure that every 50 years a voice and a soul like Odetta’s would come along, the centuries would pass so quickly and painlessly we would hardly recognize the time.” Dr. Maya Angelou

As Bluefish hit the shores of the Northeast, and their swirling fins and eating frenzies chase bait fish literally onto the sand of Cape Cod beaches, its time to indulge our sonic pleasures in these long summer days in another form of Blues: the deep, sonorities of Odetta’s vocal version, captured in all of its magnificence on this audiophile gem. This recording combines all of the richness of Odetta’s blues vocabulary with the backing of a crack blues ensemble who push and compliment her every step of the ramblin way. The core of this fantastic blues machine is provided by the talents of Seth Farber on piano, Jimmy Vivino on guitar, Paul Ossola on bass and Shawn Pelton on drums. The recording is a sonic revelation, with its image dimensionality particularly noteworthy. It provides a sense of solidity and three dimensionality that is uncanny and should test your audio system’s ability to capture such accuracy in soundstage depth and positioning of the players on stage. This recording will also challenge your system’s ability to get the unusual timbres of Odetta’s diverse vocal range right, (a very difficult task), which this recording offers with absolute brilliance. Odetta’s voice ranges here from the most sorrowful, poignant lament in deep vocal registers, to her absolutely unique, delicate treble reaches. 

The recording commences with the title track which builds from a slow crescendo of piano and bass into a steady rocking stew that Odetta punctuates perfectly with her vocal passion, laughs, sighs and timely delivery of great blues lines, like the following: “There’s blues in my mailbox cause I can’t get no mail; there’s blues in my breadbox cause my bread has gone stale.” Vivino is heard on a driving guitar blues solo on the left of stage, with Farber’s honky tonk piano on the right that puts down some serious funk. You should be able to hear a perfectly long decay of Farber’s piano at the end of this number. Next up is a short, yet most profound, duet between Odetta and Dr. John, accompanied only by the Dr’s piano, on Please Send Me Someone To Love. What a revelation this piece is, both in form, structure and sonic execution! The recording is so perfect that you should be able to discern Odetta’s breathing and see her lips moving in her perfectly timed delivery, while Dr. John’s voice is captured in all of his New Orleans deep and funky tone. Odetta has been known in concert to introduce the human voice as the “oldest instrument in the world,” and here it is on display in all of its expressive greatness. Moving from this gospel tinged number, check out the vibrancy of Unemployment Blues, which features fabulous and furious drum kit work by Pelton charging forth as Vivino’s guitar rifts fly and the sparks of Farber’s honky tonk piano are measured in gulps for air. The material here is as topical today as it was when it was written: Hoping war don’t start and Uncle Sam don’t send me away. Turn to Trouble Everywhere for a churning, burning slow blues number, with more topical material about poverty, war and the struggle for personal redemption on such a world stage, livin’ with the blues. Odetta is in fine form here, her high pristine treble complimented by a swaggering guitar and piano backing, (with an unusual wood ratchet sounding on the left) across a wide soundstage. After several other captivating tunes ranging from tin pan alley acoustic blues to another beauty of a duet with Dr. John, Odetta ends with the Sippie Wallace anthem, You Gotta Know How, sending this one home with humor, grandeur and dignity. 

We welcome any readers comments or suggestions for other audiophile CD favorites for upcoming Stereo Times reviews. Please contact Nelson Brill@Stereotimes.com


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