American folk singer Rhiannon Giddens is a versatile performer who brings stories to life through songs, melodically sung in her rich, strong voice. Giddens won a Grammy with her former band, the Carolina Chocolate Drop, for Best Traditional Folk Album for Genuine Negro Jig in 2011. She is nominated for two Grammys for the 59th Grammy Awards for “Best Roots Album” for Factory Girl and for “Best American Roots Performance” for “Factory Girl.”
Giddens has a new album, Freedom Highway, due out on Feb. 24, 2017. The album will include nine original songs and three covers, per American Songwriter. She has also scored a recurring acting role on the cast of CMT’s “Nashville,” as a social worker with the voice of an angel.
Following is a top ten list of Giddens’ best songs.
10. “Shake Sugaree”
Giddens sings Elizabeth Cotton’s song “Shake Sugaree” on the album Tomorrow is My Turn.
9. “Mouth Music”
“Mouth Music” shows Giddens’ versatility, as she sings this fast-paced Gaelic song, on the album Factory Girl.
8. “Genuine Negro Jig”
This is the title song for the album Genuine Negro Jig, by Giddens’ former band, Carolina Chocolate Drops. The album won a Grammy Award for Best Traditional Folk Album in 2011.
7. “Spanish Mary”
This song is on Bob Dylan’s Lost Basement Tapes, with lyrics by Bob Dylan and lead vocals by Rhiannon Giddens.
6. “Woman of Constant Sorrow” – Sxip Shirey featuring Rhiannon Giddens
This rework of an early 20th century folk classic will be on the upcoming Skip Shirey album, A Bottle Of Whiskey And A Handful Of Bees, per Billboard. The theme of the album is “about searching for home and being placeless.”
This song about a female slave is on the album, Freedom Highway, which will be released Feb. 24, 2017. Giddens was inspired by 19th century poster advertising the sale of a female Negro slave, with a nine-month old baby available “at the purchaser’s option.”
4. “Cry No More”
“Cry No More” was released as a one-take, live video, inspired by the shooting in Charleston at the AME Church in 2015. Giddens explained her reasons for creating the song, per NPR. Giddens wrote,” The massacre at the AME church is just the latest in a string of racially charged events that have broken my heart. There are a lot of things to fix in this country, but history says if we don't address this canker, centuries in the making, these things will continue to happen. No matter what level privilege you have, when the system is broken everybody loses. We all have to speak up when injustice happens. No matter what.”
3. “Tomorrow is My Turn”
The title track for the album Tomorrow is My Turn, which is produced by T-Bone Burnett. The song lyrics are about looking forward tomorrow, hoping for a better future. Refrain: Though time may help you forget / All that has happened before / It's too late to regret, what is gone will be no more.
2. “Angel City”
“Angel City” is from the album, Tomorrow is My Turn, which is a traditional bluegrass album. The song I about someone who lost their way, but discovered her true calling, with some help from her friends. Best Lyric: I am found where I was lost, I am closer to free / Heart unbound, whatever the cost, all rivers fall to the sea.
1. "Factory Girl"
The title track for the album Factory Girl has been nominated for a Grammy for “Best Roots Performance.” A young man is enchanted by a young woman who works at a factory and that workers have been killed, including his love. He smells the scent of roses and looks up and sees a thousand young butterflies in the sky.