Odetta – Looking For A Home (2001)

FrontCover1Odetta Holmes (December 31, 1930 – December 2, 2008), known as Odetta, was an American singer, actress, guitarist, lyricist, and a civil and human rights activist, often referred to as “The Voice of the Civil Rights Movement”. Her musical repertoire consisted largely of American folk music, blues, jazz, and spirituals. An important figure in the American folk music revival of the 1950s and 1960s, she influenced many of the key figures of the folk-revival of that time, including Bob Dylan, Joan Baez, Mavis Staples, and Janis Joplin. Time magazine included her recording of “Take This Hammer” on its list of the 100 Greatest Popular Songs, stating that “Rosa Parks was her No. 1 fan, and Martin Luther King Jr. called her the queen of American folk music.”

In November 2008, Odetta’s health began to decline and she began receiving treatment at Lenox Hill Hospital in New York. She had hoped to perform at Barack Obama’s inauguration on January  but she died of heart disease on December 2, 2008, in New York City.

At a memorial service for her in February 2009 at Riverside Church in New York City, participants included Maya Angelou, Pete Seeger, Harry Belafonte, Geoffrey Holder, Steve Earle, Sweet Honey in the Rock, Peter Yarrow, Maria Muldaur, Tom Chapin, Josh White Jr. (son of Josh White), Emory Joseph, Rattlesnake Annie, the Brooklyn Technical High School Chamber Chorus, and videotaped tributes from Tavis Smiley and Joan Baez.

Odetta01Odetta influenced Harry Belafonte, who “cited her as a key influence” on his musical career; Bob Dylan, who said, “The first thing that turned me on to folk singing was Odetta. I heard a record of hers Odetta Sings Ballads and Blues in a record store, back when you could listen to records right there in the store. Right then and there, I went out and traded my electric guitar and amplifier for an acoustical guitar, a flat-top Gibson. . . . [That album was] just something vital and personal. I learned all the songs on that record”; Joan Baez, who said, “Odetta was a goddess. Her passion moved me. I learned everything she sang”; Janis Joplin, who “spent much of her adolescence listening to Odetta, who was also the first person Janis imitated when she started singing”; the poet Maya Angelou, who once said, “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 time”; John Waters, whose original screenplay for Hairspray mentions her as an influence on beatniks; and Carly Simon, who cited Odetta as a major influence and told of “going weak in the knees” when she had the opportunity to meet her in Greenwich Village.

Looking for a Home is an album by American folk singer Odetta, released in 2001. It consists of songs written and/or performed by Huddie Ledbetter, better known as Leadbelly. (wikipedia)


Harry Belafonte once wrote of blues singer Odetta: “Few possess the fine understanding of a song’s meaning which transforms it from a melody into a dramatic experience.” Pete Seeger heard this collection and declared, “I’ve been waiting for this album for 50 years!” In continuing her tribute to the classics, Odetta turns her legendary vocal talents to the songs of Huddie Ledbetter, better known to blues history as “Leadbelly.” Like Odetta herself, Leadbelly was far more than just a blues singer. His repertoire ranged from children’s songs to folk ballads, protest songs to work songs, gospel to jazz. Odetta tackles a handful of his classics in her own distinctive style, with moods ranging from melancholy and emotional (the mandolin-enhanced, saloon-flavored “Mother’s Blues”) to spirited and humorous (“When I Was a Cowboy”). Many of these songs have great historical significance, from the old folk tune “In the Pines” (which features Seth Farber’s stellar piano accompaniment) to the Jim Crow protest song “Bourgeois Blues” (given a lively, New Orleans-flavored treatment). Fans of Leadbelly’s music will also enjoy the liner notes, which go into detail about the origins of each song. (by Jonathan Widran)


Richard Crooks (drums)
Seth Farber (keyboards)
Mike Merritt (bass)
Odetta (vocals)
James Saporito (percussion)
Jimmy Vivino (banjo, guitar)
Clarence “Gatemouth” Brown (violion on 14.)
Henry Butler (piano on 05. + 10.)
Shawn Pelton (drums on 06., 08., 09., 12. + 14.)
Fred Koella (mandolin on 09., violion on 04.)
Kim Wilson (harmonica on 06. + 07.)
01. Goodnight, Irene (Leadbelly/Lomax) 5.00
02. You Don’t Know My Mind (Leadbelly) 4.32
03. Mother’s Blues (Little Children Blues) (Leadbelly) 3.47
04. When I Was A Cowboy (Leadbelly) 3.12
05. In The Pines (Leadbelly) 4.04
06. How Long (Leadbelly) 4.31
07. Bourgeois Blues (Leadbelly) 4.34
08. Alabama Bound/Boll Weevil (Leadbelly/Traditional) 7.21
09. Roberta” (Ledbetter/Lomax) 5.37
10. New Orleans (Leadbelly) 4.43
11. Jim Crow Blues (Leadbelly) 3.18
12. Rock Island Line (Leadbelly) 3.02
13. Julie Anne Johnson/Whoa Black Buck (Ledbetter/Traditional) 2.48
14. Easy Rider (Leadbelly) 5.12
15. Midnight Special (Leadbelly) 4.37



More from Odetta:


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