Sista Jean & CB – Requiem For A Heavyweight: A Tribute To Odetta | Album Review

sistajeancdSista Jean & CB – Requiem For A Heavyweight: A Tribute To Odetta

Freckle Bandit Records

12 songs – 47 minutes

Here’s a well-deserved tribute album for you! Sista Jean McClain, who possesses one of the sweetest voices you’ll ever hear, teams up with Carlyle Barriteau, a gifted guitarist known for his work in the jazz and soul fields, for an acoustic tip of the hat to the late Odetta, a legendary vocalist whom Martin Luther King dubbed both the Voice Of The Civil Rights Movement and the Queen Of American Folk Music.

It’s a welcome retrospective for an artist whose legacy has begun to fade as the fans who’ve loved and appreciated her have aged and begun to fade away. Odetta Holmes (1930-2008) crossed the boundaries between folk, gospel and blues. An actress and Broadway star in her own right, she toured in the cast of “Finnigan’s Rainbow” after making her debut opposite Ella Fitzgerald as a member of the Turnabout Puppet Theater in Hollywood.

A vocalist whose he was a major influence on the careers of Harry Belafonte, Mavis Staples, Joan Baez, Janis Joplin, Carly Simon and Bob Dylan, among many others, her biggest hit was a duet of “There’s A Hole In The Bucket” with Belafonte that charted in 1961. But she’s best remembered as one of the most visible performers in demonstrations in the years that followed, most notably “O Freedom” at the March On Washington in 1963.

One of the future vocalists to fall under Odetta’s spell was Sista Jean, who grew up to be one of the most important backup singers in the world, working behind Tina Turner, Mick Jagger, Celine Dion and Keb’ Mo. She earned acclaim with the song “Dive Into The Pool,” which charted internationally on Billboard’s dance music charts, before returning to returning to her blues/roots charts in a partnership with Barriteau, who’s toured with jazz powerhouse Bobby Caldwell after working with the Miracles, Rose Royce, Paul Taylor, Patti Austin and Rickie Lee Jones.

This 12-song release follows their debut CD, 2011’s Back To The Root, and is available through Amazon, CDBaby and iTunes. It gives Sista Jean and CB the perfect platform to deliver some of the best folk blues you’ll ever hear. The duo rounds out their sound with assists from Vincent Henry (harp, horns and vocals), Mark Goldenberg (resonator guitar), David Piltch, Roberto Vally and Ian Martin (bass) and Davey Chegwidden and Big Willie B (percussion).

All but one of the tunes you’ll hear here was sung by Odetta at one time or another in her career. First up is a cover of Leadbelly’s “Alabama Bound.” Sista Jean’s voice soars over guitar work that features Goldenberg in his sole appearance. Another Leadbelly classic, “Easy Rider,” precedes a version of “House Of The Rising Sun.” A traditional folk song made popular by Blind Lemon Jefferson, “Jack Of Diamonds” leads into “Deep River,” a tune that traces its roots to Africa and was first sung in America in the mid-1800s.

“Another Man Done Gone,” credited here to Alan Lomax, but which originated with chain gangs in the Mississippi Delta, bridges into two more Leadbelly masterworks, “Midnight Special” and “Take This Hammer,” before the only new tune on this disc, “Troubled Man Of Mine,” co-written by Sista Jean and CB. A version of Louis Armstrong’s “Hear Me Talkin’ To Ya” and Leadbelly’s “Meet N At The Building” follow before the traditional gospel number “Glory Glory” concludes the set.

Requiem For A Heavyweight delivers on all counts as it revives the stylings of Odetta and revisits the American folk blues songbook as it existed in her lifetime. A beautifully executed treasure from start to finish.

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