Solo Debut Album – Tomorrow Is My Turn
Produced By T Bone Burnett – Due February 6 on Nonesuch
The first time I saw, or heard, or even heard of for that matter, Rhiannon Giddens was at the New Orleans’ Jazz and Heritage Festival in 2008. She was a member of Carolina Chocolate Drops who were playing in the Blues Tent, but what they were about had nothing to do with blues to these ears. What I discovered was an authentic traditional folk sound, like nothing I had heard to that time.
Since then I’ve wised up a little and now know the band’s sound to be straight from the way-back traditions of the Appalachians and could be termed hillbilly or mountain music, predating any genres or labels like folk or bluegrass. Last month I traveled along The Crooked Road, a music heritage trail in Virginia just over the North Carolina border. One of the pivotal stops on that journey was The Blue Ridge Music Centre near Galax Virginia, a wonderful space to hear and explore the early Appalachian sounds. The gift shop in the Centre had a range of CDs showcasing this ever-so-authentic musical culture and I recall that Carolina Chocolate Drops’ albums were just about the only “new music” available. The band had in fact played at the Centre not that long ago, so that gives some indication of the band’s intense relationship with this form of traditional music.
Anyway, I digress – enough about the Grammy-award winning Carolina Chocolate Drops.
Singer, songwriter, multi-instrumentalist and founding member of that outfit, Rhiannon Giddens, makes her solo recording debut with Tomorrow Is My Turn, due out February 6 2015 on Nonesuch Records (vinyl to come in March).
The album was produced by T Bone Burnett and is available to pre-order with an instant download of the album tracks “Don’t Let It Trouble Your Mind” and “Shake Sugaree” on iTunes. Here’s video clips of both songs and the pre-order link.
Burnett first worked with Giddens when she performed last fall at a concert he curated at New York City’s Town Hall that was later broadcast on Showtime: Another Day, Another Time: Celebrating the Music of “Inside Llewyn Davis.” (Nonesuch/Warner Music Australia releases the live album of this concert January 2015.)
In the Huffington Post’s “5 Memorable Moments From the ‘Inside Llewyn Davis’ Concert,” the top spot went to “Dear Lord: Rhiannon Giddens. The chances are a good many people haven’t heard of Rhiannon Giddens, but that’s probably going to change … Giddens performed two songs … and earned the night’s one in-show standing ovation.”
Backstage, Burnett was immediately moved to ask if he could produce a record with her.
“It was clear the first time I heard her at rehearsal that Rhiannon is next in a long line of singers that include Marian Anderson, Odetta, Mahalia Jackson, Rosetta Tharpe, Nina Simone,” Burnett says. “We need that person in our culture.”
For her first solo disc, Giddens chose a broad range of songs from genres as diverse as gospel, jazz, blues, and country. In addition to the traditional “Black Is the Color,” tracks include Hank Cochran’s “She’s Got You,” made famous by Patsy Cline; Dolly Parton’s “Don’t Let It Trouble Your Mind”; “O Love Is Teasin’,” popularized by the Kentucky-reared “mother of folk” Jean Ritchie; and Elizabeth Cotton’s “Shake Sugaree.” The full track list follows.
“I had already started putting together a list of songs that didn’t really fit into the Chocolate Drops world,” Giddens explains. “At the top was ‘Tomorrow Is My Turn’ [immortalized by Nina Simone]. Seeing Nina do it on YouTube was revelatory. I knew she’d gone through a lot of hard times, as so many people did in that time period. Watching her sing this song, with the words ‘tomorrow is my turn,’ I began to think about the struggle of her and women like her.” The significance of this song led Giddens to make it the title of the album as well. “Other songs started getting on my list and they were all by women or interpreted by women,” she says.
Tomorrow Is My Turn was recorded in Los Angeles and Nashville, with a multi-generational group of players whom Burnett assembled. Among them are fiddle player Gabe Witcher and double bassist Paul Kowert of label-mates Punch Brothers; percussionist Jack Ashford of Motown’s renowned Funk Brothers; drummer Jay Bellerose; guitarist Colin Linden; legendary backup singer Tata Vega; veteran Nashville session bassist Dennis Crouch; and Giddens’ Drops touring band-mates, multi-instrumentalist Hubby Jenkins and beat-boxer Adam Matta.
Tomorrow Is My Turn follows Giddens’ work with Elvis Costello, Taylor Goldsmith, Jim James, and Marcus Mumford on Lost On The River: The New Basement Tapes, an album also produced by Burnett that was released in November 2014. Her contribution was hailed by Rolling Stone magazine as the “showstopper…evoking antebellum blues with a magnificent voice that interrogates the myths stirred up at Big Pink.” The New York Times agreed, saying “On lead vocals she’s the album’s revelation, singing melodies that hark back to Celtic modes with a decisive presence and a haunting grace.”
The very day I am writing this I opened and listened to one of the CDs I purchased on my most recent music sojourn to the USA. It was Look Again To The Wind: Johnny Cash’s Bitter Tears Revisited, which is a tribute to Cash’s landmark 1964 release which focused on the detrimental treatment of the American Indian. This 2014 collection is helmed by super producer Joe Henry and features a range of impressive performers paying homage to Cash, his album and the strong sentiments contained within. Giddens performs on this tribute album – Johnny Horton’s “The Vanishing Race” (with some of her additional lyrics and support from Gillian Welch and Dave Rawlings) and it is stunning. For more information on Look To The Wind, see here.
If both Henry and Burnett are taken with the talents of Rhiannon Giddens, that’s indication enough that Tomorrow Is My Turn is going to be something to savour when it’s available.
‘Tomorrow Is My Turn’ Tracklisting
1. Last Kind Words (Geeshie Wiley)
2. Don’t Let It Trouble Your Mind (Dolly Parton)
3. Waterboy (Jacques Wolfe)
4. She’s Got You (Hank Cochran)
5. Up Above My Head (Sister Rosetta Tharpe)
6. Tomorrow Is My Turn (Charles Aznavour/Marcel Stellman/Yves Stéphane)
7. Black Is the Color (Traditional, arr. Rhiannon Giddens)
8. Round About the Mountain (Traditional, arr. Roland Hayes)
9. Shake Sugaree (Elizabeth Cotten)
10. O Love Is Teasin’ (Traditional, arr. Rhiannon Giddens)
11. Angel City (Rhiannon Giddens)