Odessa: Odessa

Odessa Album Cover
(Chop Shop/Republic)
3 out of 5 stars

Videos by American Songwriter

Following the well-trod footsteps of front people who started their careers as backing musicians, multi-instrumentalist Odessa shifted into the spotlight from backing larger acts such as Edward Sharpe with 2014’s well received four song EP. She reprises three of those tunes on her debut full length, fleshing them out with eight more that both solidify and extend the singer/songwriter’s range.

Easy on the eyes and ears, Odessa’s trilling, subtle voice threatens to, but never quite gets lost in her sweet folk/pop melodies. Opening ballad “I Will Be There,” reprised from the EP, establishes the blueprint. Its hushed, lovely melody and lyrics that dedicate the singer to helping out a friend are custom made for anyone in similar situations. Odessa’s lilting voice makes everything sound fragile and real, even if some of the tunes tend towards the slight side.

A nudge towards Celtic on the percolating “Hummed Low” gently expands her approach as does the throbbing percussion and Doors-styled psychedelic organ solo that enlivens “Black Butterfly.” Lyrics generally concern the vagaries and ins and outs of love as titles such as “Shallow Heart,” the glistening, melancholia of “Love Alone” and the shimmering retro folk of “For Granted” imply. Veteran producer Jacquire King (Tom Waits, Kings of Leon) adds strings that instill a dreamy, swirling effect to songs whose stripped down yet cushy sonics already create a floating feeling. He also enhances Odessa’s voice by overdubbing her own backing, a process particularly effective on the wordless closing instrumental “Western,” one of the few times we hear her violin skills at work.

Subtle enhancements like the eerie windswept vocals prodding a softly strummed circular guitar pattern in the chamber string enriched “Glow” add heft and beauty to tunes that might drift away without the additional layers. Repeated listenings reveal further intricacies that prove this auspicious debut was a wise decision for Odessa who clearly has the flair, talent and inspiration to be front and center.

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