Folk singers can get away with taking their craft into unconventional places: On downtown sidewalks, in subway stations and in restaurants at lunchtime, they open their guitar cases and unleash their voices, good or bad. So many people associate folk music with the mellow, sensitive fare of street buskers or the white-bread stylings of people like James Taylor that they overlook its more humble beginnings as an oral tradition, a tool of expression, a form of protest. It's also easy to forget that the sight of, say, a young woman playing acoustic guitar in a coffee shop, singing songs born in the backwoods, wasn't always a familiar sight -- especially if that young woman happened to be black. At least it wasn't a familiar sight in 1949, when Odetta Felious (née Holmes) began singing in San Francisco joints at the... More >>>
Smile, darn ya, smile: Odetta cradles her trusty guitar.