12 Songs, 49 Minutes

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Customer Reviews

5 out of 5

37 Ratings

Keep Hope Alive

CRTube,

This album is released one month after the first black US president leaves office and three years into the Black Lives Matter movement and with Donald Trump taking office. This is a time of FEAR for many of us. And it is into this context that Rhiannon Giddens digs deep into our history and the traditions of American Roots music. Her message might be that to be a resilient people you have to know your past. Giddens's songwriting shines on this album much more than her previous work with the Carolina Chocolate Drops and her first solo and follow-up EP. The three covers of Mississippi John Hurt, Richard Farina, and The Staples Singers are carefully chosen to tie into her main theme of knowing your history. The choice of producer Dick Powell and his Civil War Era studio for recordingthe project is as brilliant as Bob Dylan & The Band's settling into the basement. Yes, time and place do matter! I don't just WANT to hear this album, but I NEED to hear it. Right now more than ever. American Roots music has never been more relevant.

Freedom Highway

Spirit of Garcia,

Currently listening to this on NPR Music First Listen - and it's a stone masterpiece. RG has always been a great singer, but she excels on this wonderful, wonderful record. Instrumentation kept to a minimum - and all the players are great - so as to highlight her tremendous vocals and wonderful material (Birmingham Sunday a stand out). The songs are great too - without being too strident, the lyrics really hit home, and there are several "good time" songs too. It has a timeless quality to it - made in 2017, but captures the spirit of Harry Smith's Anthology of American Music or Greil Marcus' old, weird America. Haven't heard a better record so far this year - and I have no doubt that this will be on a lot of people's record of the year come December. 10 stars.

About Rhiannon Giddens

Singer and multi-instrumentalist Rhiannon Giddens is best known as the frontwoman of African-American string band the Carolina Chocolate Drops, whose 2010 album Genuine Negro Jig earned them a Grammy Award for Best Traditional Folk Album. Raised in Piedmont, North Carolina, Giddens studied opera at the Oberlin Conservatory before relocating back home, where she became immersed in the rural musical traditions of that region. A chance meeting with future bandmates Justin Robinson and Dom Flemons at the 2005 Black Banjo Gathering in Boone, North Carolina resulted in the formation of their first folk project, Sankofa Strings. Originally an outlet to perform various early African-American musical styles like blues, country, hot string jazz, and Caribbean, the bandmembers ended up learning much of their early repertoire from legendary old-time fiddler Joe Thompson. Adopting the name the Carolina Chocolate Drops, they released four eclectic and well-respected albums before signing with Nonesuch Records to release their wildly successful 2010 breakthrough album.

Following the success of Genuine Negro Jig, the band continued to tour and record with an ever-evolving lineup that remained centered around Giddens' powerful vocals and fiddle/banjo playing. Drafted by producer T-Bone Burnett to perform solo at the 2013 Another Day, Another Time concert (celebrating the musical era of the film Inside Llewyn Davis) in New York, she gave a showstopping performance of the Odetta classic "Waterboy," which was widely considered the highlight of the evening. Just a few months later in early 2014, she again worked with Burnett on the collaborative New Basement Tapes recording project, which featured Elvis Costello, Jim James (My Morning Jacket), Marcus Mumford (Mumford & Sons), and Taylor Goldsmith (Dawes) writing new music to recently discovered Bob Dylan lyrics. Her own Burnett-produced solo debut, Tomorrow Is My Turn, was released a year later in February 2015. At the end of the year, she released an EP called Factory Girl, which was culled from the same sessions as Tomorrow Is My Turn; its title track received a Grammy nomination for Best American Roots Performance in 2017, while the EP itself was nominated for Best Folk Album. Giddens released her second solo album, Freedom Highway, which she co-produced with Dirk Powell, in February 2017. ~ Timothy Monger

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