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Review and photos by Frances SealyThere is no doubt that Rhiannon Giddens has one of the most unique, exquisite voices in music today. Ms. Giddens graduated from Oberlin Conservatory in Ohio after intensively studying opera for five years. Although, she traded opera for Americana music, her immense vocal control has evolved naturally from her early opera training. And that beautiful vocal range makes for a stunning performance.
Rhiannon Giddens' new album, Freedom Highway, bears testimony to her inspiration and enthusiasm of bringing forth past truths. The show is predominantly songs from her newest release with a sprinkling of songs from The New Basement Tapes and Tomorrow Is My Turn.
Many of the songs on Freedom Highway were written by Ms. Giddens and Dirk Powell. It would be nice to say that Freedom Highway completes the message that Tomorrow is My Turn only started. However, it expounds on the subject. It does not complete the subject since modern times have not succeeded in relieving racial tensions in America. The songs in the album have a cautionary message that history has a way of repeating itself.
"Julie" is a fine example of history being in the details. It was a song she wrote after reading a narrative that was a conversation overheard from two women standing by the bank watching the union army march on the plantation. The conversation was between the mistress and the woman that she thought she owned. This was a story that presents both women's perspective. She also performed a powerful, gospel-edged "Birmingham Sunday" from the civil right's era about the tragic bombing of a church in Birmingham, Alabama in 1963.
Rhiannon interpreted songs by Patsy Cline, Odetta, and Mavis Staples. Her fresh and exuberant delivery on the old classic tunes is exciting. "She's Got You" has quickly become a fan favorite in all genre of music.
The same brilliant musicians that performed on the new album are the same ones that performed during this show and the rest of the tour. They are Dirk Powell (co-producer of the new album) on electric guitar, keyboards, fiddle and banjo, Hubby Jenkins (member of Carolina Chocolate Drops) on mandolin, guitar, handclaps, Jamie Dick on drums and percussion, Jason Sypher on acoustic bass, Justin Harrington-rapper (nephew), Lalenja Harrington vocals (sister), and Rhiannon Giddens on minstrel banjo and fiddle.
It is hard not to be in awe of one of this generation's greatest singer/songwriters.
1. Spanish Mary (The New Basement Tapes cover)
2. The Love We Almost Had
3. At the Purchaser's Option
4. Following the North Star
5. We Could Fly
6. Water Boy (Odetta cover)
7. Dimanche Après-Midi (The Creole Song)
8. She's Got You (Patsy Cline cover)
9. Children, Go Where I Send Thee (Mary Chapin Carpenter cover)
10. Last Kind Words*(Geeshie Wiley cover)
12. Hey Bébé
13. (Scottish mouth music)
14. Better Get It Right
15. Old Time Tunes
16. Birmingham Sunday
17. Freedom Highway (The Staple Singers cover)
18. Lonesome Road / Up Above My Head (Sister Rosetta Tharpe cover)
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