Rhiannon Giddens—Tomorrow Is My Turn (Nonesuch) – If you’re familiar with Rhiannon Giddens’ work in the Carolina Chocolate Drops or her participation in the T-Bone Burnett project The New Basement Tapes, then it will be no surprise to hear how masterfully Giddens works her way through different facets of American music by way of material composed by female artists she holds in high regard. If this is the first time that this extremely talented North Carolinian is showing up on your radar, then her Burnett-produced solo debut will undoubtedly turn your head considerably. Rather than this be some exercise in preserving roots music with a dry, academic approach, Giddens instead applies a number of delightful twists be it the use of melodica and ex-Chocolate Drop Adam Matta’s beatbox skills on a bouncy reading of the traditional number “Black Is the Color” that’s also been covered by Joan Baez and Nina Simone. Or how “Waterboy,” a work song that soars on the back of her rich vibrato and gives way to a laconic stride, winds up honoring her hero Odetta, who was known to regularly perform this traditional song. Also benefiting from Giddens’ uplifting approach is Sister Rosetta Tharpe, whose “Up Above My Head” gets placed at the crossroads of sanctified gospel and the one-two punch of rockabilly riffing and honky-tonk fiddling. Elsewhere, the purity of Giddens’ classically trained voice mesmerizes throughout whether it’s the mid-tempo acoustic version of Elizabeth Cotten’s “Shake Sugaree,” a sophisticated turn taken on a string-kissed walk through Charles Aznavour’s title cut (another Simone standard) or her own note-perfect “Angel City,” a quavering ballad gently pushed along by Gabe Witcher’s mournful fiddle. Tomorrow Is My Turn winds up being a master class in American roots music that begs to be heard. To read a full story on Rhiannon Giddens, click here.
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