Songlines | Rhiannon Giddens

Americas

Rhiannon Giddens
Freedom Highway (Nonesuch)

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As singer, violinist, banjo player and a founding member of the Grammy-winning Carolina Chocolate Drops, Rhiannon Giddens forged a singular path exploring the roots of black Americana, drawing on a heritage that went far beyond jazz and blues to encompass string band and songster traditions, hoedowns and old-time waltzes. Her 2015 solo debut, Tomorrow is My Turn, expanded her range still further to includes songs made famous by Patsy Cline, Odetta and Nina Simone among others. Themed as an oral/musical history, the follow-up Freedom Highway is arguably the pinnacle of her career to date as she takes us on a deathless musical journey that spans two hundred years of African-American experience, from the slave plantations of the antebellum South through the Civil Rights era and on to the Black Lives Matter movement today.

Original compositions sit alongside relevant covers, such as the Staples Singers’ 1965 title-track, as she skilfully fashions old-time folk, gospel, Dixieland jazz, balladry, rhythm & blues and hip-hop into a coherent whole, inhabiting the songs and dramatising them in a way that makes the predicament of her characters sound visceral and urgent. Impassioned, soulful and inspiring, Giddens emerges not merely as a consummate musician but as a major storyteller with a vital message for our times.

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