Odetta

One Grain of Sand

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By the time the independent folk label Vanguard Records got around to releasing its sixth Odetta album, One Grain of Sand, in 1963, the singer had already decamped to RCA Victor and released her major-label debut, Sometimes I Feel Like Cryin', in 1962. But One Grain of Sand is not just a collection of outtakes assembled to fulfill a contract and take revenge on a departed artist. It finds Odetta accompanying herself as usual on acoustic guitar and joined by Bill Lee on string bass, putting her inimitable stamp on a good set of traditional folk songs along with numbers associated with Leadbelly, Woody Guthrie, and Pete Seeger. She also brings in spirituals, blues, and even country on a cover of "Cool Water." But, given her distinctive vocal approach, every song from every genre becomes an Odetta song, with her contralto finding unusual depths of feeling in even the lighter fare. It might be argued that, in the early '60s, partially because of record company machinations, Odetta had a glut of LPs in release. But when even a minor one displays such quality, it's hard to complain.

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