To Ella

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Although To Ella is dedicated to Ella Fitzgerald (who died in 1996), it isn't actually a tribute to the influential jazz singer. Nor does it find Odetta moving into jazz territory. Rather, this excellent CD is an example of Odetta doing what she does best: acoustic, storytelling folk that is influenced by African-American spirituals as well as rural blues. Odetta had been recording for over 40 years when To Ella was recorded at the Kerrville Folk Festival in the late '90s, and the veteran folk artist sings with as much conviction as ever on such moving performances as "Black Woman," "Ol' Lady Sally," and "900 Miles" (which is part of a 27-minute suite that also includes "Red Clay Country," "Shenandoah," and several other songs). Those who have been following Odetta for decades will be glad to hear how well her voice has held up over the years -- without a doubt, her range was still as impressive as ever.

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