Rhiannon Giddens "Tomorrow is My Turn"

Rhiannon Giddens magnificent voice transcends genre on her solo debut.

Rhiannon Giddens stands on the precipice of super-stardom. She possesses a voice that can interpret folk, gospel, soul, blues, country, and standards. If you don’t believe me then check out what Grammy and Oscar winning producer T Bone Burnett writes about her. “It was clear the first time I heard her that Rhiannon Giddens is next in a long line of singers that includes Marian Anderson, Odetta, Mahalia Jackson, Rosetta Tharpe.” That’s high praise from a man who has worked with the best in the business, and it helps explain why a producer in high demand has taken the time to produce her debut solo album.

Tomorrow is My Turn is an ambitious release that reaches across genres. Many of these songs are strongly identified with other artists which might be a hindrance for some musicians, but not Giddens. She imbues each song with a unique energy that defines her style while still acknowledging its source. Fans familiar with her work with The Carolina Chocolate Drops can attest to her uncanny ability to animate dusty traditional tunes, placing them in modern context. Here she begins with “Last Kind Words” a blues ballad by Geeshie Wiley, an African American woman largely lost to history. It’s a haunting plea for redemption laid upon a bed of mandolin, stand-up bass, and both electric and guitar. From here she moves to a diva of country music, covering Dolly Parton’s “Don’t Let it Trouble Your Mind,” a song that could be a response to Dylan’s “Don’t Think Twice, It’s Alright.” The next two songs are identified with woman artists of great stature and voice. “Waterboy” was a signature song for Odetta, “She’s Got You” for Patsy Cline. Giddens approach is bold and differentiates the singer from her predecessors. She continues down this avenue with rousing versions of  Rosetta Tharpe’s “Up Above My Head” and Elizabeth Cotton’s “Shake Sugaree. Nina Simone’s “Black is the Color” is reworked both lyrically and musically, transforming it into an exhilarating love song. What might surprise most is Giddens’ stunning take on French composer Charles Aznavour’s torch ballad “Tomorrow is My Turn.”

Producer Burnett brings his A-team to the recording including drummer Jay Bellerose, bassist Dennis Crouch, and guitarist Colin Linden. But the jewel in this glimmering crown is Rhiannon Giddens’ voice – a majestic, expressive gift that sweeps through hymn and ballad, shifting effortlessly from funky to earthy. It is a transcended thing.

Rosemary Welsch (Afternoon Mix)