After several years as part of the acclaimed folk group the Carolina Chocolate Drops, singer and musician Rhiannon Giddens is going it alone with her first solo album, Tomorrow Is My Turn, released this week.
The album was produced by T Bone Burnett, who first worked with her last year on Lost On the River: The New Basement Tapes, which featured Giddens and several other artists performing original music set to newly discovered Bob Dylan lyrics from 1967. Emerging as one of the stars of the album, Giddens was approached by Burnett about working on a record of her own.
Giddens studied opera at Oberlin Conservatory and her voice carries elements of folk, blues and jazz, but one can't restrict it to just one of those genres (Burnett has also compared her to legendary gospel singers like Mahalia Jackson and Marian Anderson) .
She opens Tomorrow Is My Turn with Geeshie Wiley's "Last Kind Words." The 1930 original is one of the most unearthly and unsettling prewar blues recordings, and as such may never be topped, so it's to Giddens' credit that her version is nearly as potent. On Libba Cotten's "Shake Sugaree" Giddens and her band credibly evoke the late-'30s era of the first electric blues recordings.
They also turn Sister Rosetta Tharpe's "Up Above My Head" into a gospel stomper infused with shots of rockabilly and Western swing while transforming Patsy Cline's "She's Got You" from countrypolitan to late-night R & B.
Giddens gets a chance to demonstrate some of her opera training on Odetta's "Waterboy" but even better is the album's closer, "Angel City", a poignant understated ballad she wrote herself.
As impressive as she often is on record, she's even more compelling on stage, so it's worth checking her out live. Giddens has just announced she'll be touring behind the album this fall. The dates are as follows - except for the Big Ears, Bonnaroo and Telluride festivals, tickets for all shows go on sale Friday, February 13.
March 27-29 Knoxville, TN - Big Ears Festival
March 31 Lexington, KY - Lexington Opera House
April 1 Charlotte, NC - McGlohon Theatre
April 2 Durham, NC - Carolina Theater
April 3 Atlanta, GA - Buckhead Theatre
April 4 Nashville, TN - Grand Ole Opry
April 7 Rocky Mount, VA - Harvester Performance Center
April 8 Charlottesville, VA - Jefferson Theater
April 9 New York, NY - Town Hall
April 10 Philadelphia, PA - Theatre of Living Arts
April 12 Washington, DC - Lincoln Theatre
April 14 Norfolk, CT - Infinity Hall
April 16 Northampton, MA - Calvin Theatre
April 17 Port Washington, NY - Landmark on Main Street
April 18 Somerville, MA - Somerville Theatre SOLD OUT
April 19 Brownfield, ME - Stone Mountain Arts Center
April 21 Albany, NY - The Egg
April 23 Chicago, IL - The Vic Theatre
April 24 Grand Rapids, MI - St. Cecilia Music Center
April 26 Milwaukee, WI - Turner Hall Ballroom
April 27 Madison, WI - Capitol Theatre
April 28 Minneapolis, MN - Pantages Theatre
April 29 Lawrence, KS - Liberty Hall
May 1 Boulder, CO - Boulder Theater
May 3 Anchorage, AK - Discovery Theatre
May 4 Palmer, AK - Glen Massay Theatre
May 8 Santa Barbara, CA - Campbell Hall at UCSB
May 9 Los Angeles, CA - El Rey Theater
May 12 Arcata, CA - Van Duzer Theater at Humboldt State University
May 14-17 San Francisco, CA - SF JAZZ
May 19 Portland, OR - Aladdin Theater
May 20 Seattle, WA - Meany Theater at University of Washington
May 23 Augusta, GA - Papa Joe’s Banjo-B-Que Music Festival
June 2 Raleigh, NC - Meymandi Concert Hall
June 11-14 Manchester, TN - Bonnaroo Music and Arts Festival
June 18-21 Telluride, CO - Telluride Bluegrass Festival