And so the butterflies were appropriate as the lights darkened and Odetta made her way up the aisle to the stage. She had burning sticks of incense stuck into the headstock of her guitar and get this she wore a jewel in the center of her forehead. Oh, my. After blowing my mind before even starting to sing, Odetta proceeded to repeat the effect in a set that had flawless power rooted in every human emotion.
What a career this extraordinary performer has had. She's acted in films and on television and toured the world many times. At seventy-two, she continues to record and perform; her recent release, Lookin' for a Home, celebrates the music of Huddie Ledbetter, better known, of course, as Leadbelly. Once you adjust to the full-blown production (she's backed by an ace blues band), the old songs emerge fresh and new, and rendered timeless by Odetta's still miraculous voice. It's a great CD, even if it isn't red.
Odetta appears at the Ark in a double bill with Arlo Guthrie Wednesday and Thursday, March 26 and 27.
[Originally published in March, 2003.]