Release Date: Feb 10, 2015
Record label: Nonesuch
Genre(s): Bluegrass, Country, Folk, Blues, Singer/Songwriter, Pop/Rock, Neo-Traditional Folk, String Bands, Contemporary Country, Neo-Traditionalist Country, Modern Acoustic Blues, Regional Blues, Country Blues, Piedmont Blues
If, at New York’s Town Hall, on the evening of September 29, 2013, there were audience members unfamiliar with Rhiannon Giddens, they surely were devotees after she brought down the house with a stunning, one-two punch of a performance. Giddens, a founder of the folk revivalists the Carolina Chocolate Drops, sang at the “Another Day, Another Time” concert T Bone Burnett produced at Town Hall to celebrate the music of Inside Llewyn Davis, the Coen Brothers’ film about New York’s ‘60s folk music scene. Giddens shared the stage with a high-powered lineup that included Jack White, Gillian Welch, Patti Smith, Marcus Mumford, the Avett Brothers, and the Queen of Folk herself, Joan Baez… and she stole the show.
Anyone familiar with the predominantly rustic, down home approach of Rhiannon Giddens’ full time outfit, the Carolina Chocolate Drops, won’t be surprised that she stays true to her influences on her first solo venture. Recent associations with T Bone Burnett included her vocals on Lost on the River, the collection of new music added to Bob Dylan’s leftover lyrics from his basement tapes era. Burnett then assembled many of his go-to team of musicians to back Giddens on this vibrant set of traditional and classic country, jazz, gospel and blues covers, all written, or made famous, by women.
Stepping away from the Carolina Chocolate Drops, Rhiannon Giddens teams up with producer T-Bone Burnett for her 2015 solo debut, Tomorrow Is My Turn. Giddens previously worked with Burnett on Lost on the River, an album where musicians added new music to lyrics Bob Dylan left behind during The Basement Tapes, and she also appeared in a concert he shepherded for the Coen brothers' folk revival opus Inside Llewyn Davis -- two projects steeped in history, as is Tomorrow Is My Turn. Here, Giddens expands upon the neo-string band of the Carolina Chocolate Drops by crafting an abbreviated and fluid history of 20th century roots music -- along with the older forms that informed it -- concentrating on songs either written or popularized by female musicians.
Co-founder of the revivalist Carolina Chocolate Drops, Giddens explores the frontiers of Americana on a solo debut of phenomenal vocal power, effortlessly jumping between gospel holler, tender folk song and lachrymose country ballad. With producer T-Bone Burnett providing his Midas touch, the album bears comparison to Plant/Krauss’s Raising Sand, likewise recasting old numbers in fresh guise. Patsy Cline’s She’s Got You acquires Stax horns, folk standard O Love Is Teasin’ haunting string drones, and the title track mutates from Nina Simone’s jaunty original to slow reflection.
Over the past two years, Rhiannon Giddens has become one of the most promising voices in American roots music. The frontwoman for adventurous string-band trio the Carolina Chocolate Drops, she's taken show-stealing turns on T Bone Burnett-helmed projects like last year's New Basement Tapes, doing retooled Bob Dylan tunes alongside Marcus Mumford and Elvis Costello, and at the blockbuster 2013 New York concert that coincided with the release of the Coen brothers' Inside Llewyn Davis. Now, with the Chocolate Drops on hiatus, Giddens is having a solo coming-out party, displaying her classical vocal training and ability to reanimate traditional music in her own nuanced image.
The first half of 2015 was a slightly strange moment for country, especially chart country, because it mostly made for some serious waiting. Though there have been significant releases, the biggest names will either return later in the year, or remain sleeping off their collective residual hangover ….
Tomorrow Is My Turn, Rhiannon Giddens’ first solo album bears a particularly prophetic title. Giddens — the singer, fiddler, banjo player and founding member of the frenzied folk outfit Carolina Chocolate Drops — does indeed make good on that optimistic pronouncement with an effort that all but ensures an ascent towards stardom. Following her participation in the collective combo The New Basement Tapes, it finds her covering signature songs by Dolly Parton, the Gershwin brothers, Hank Cochran, Odetta and Nina Simone, while also paying respects to archival classics fine-tuned with original arrangements.
When Rhiannon Giddens stepped onstage at New York’s Town Hall in September 2013 for “Another Day, Another Time,” a concert celebrating the music from the film “Inside Llewyn Davis,” she was known as a founding member of the string band Carolina Chocolate Drops. Two songs later, she was hailed as a revelation. Rightly so. That evening she performed a thunderous rendition of “Waterboy,” the old work song Odetta once intoned as if delivering a sermon on high.