In Bluesfest-land it is a prerequisite to decide before the five days of fun begins what shoes to wear. Not only because of the random Easter weather or to express your sartorial style, but also for watching your desired music genre. Such as your blues stompin’ Blundstones, praise the rain gospel gumboots, folk mountain mama hiking lace-ups or your Cuban heeled cowboy boots stitched with ‘tude. However if you are heading to see first-time Bluesfest performer Rhiannon Giddens – you’ll be hard pressed to select the best tread as she showcases her recent solo album Tomorrow is My Turn – a selection of songs from the American landscape made famous by feminine legends of gospel, jazz, folk, blues and country.
Some people have all the talent and Giddens has it in shovels – she’s not only a classically trained singer but also a multi-instrumentalist (fiddle, banjo) with enough “profound talent” as quoted by her super producer T Bone Burnett to capture these vocal genres and to present such timeless ballads in a way you’d think were only written yesterday. The songs on Tomorrow have been re-interpreted and arranged by Giddens, and performed by T Bone’s select ‘musicians’ providing light instrumentation to ballads made famous by Dolly Parton (Don’t let it trouble your mind), Sister Rosetta Tharpe (Up above my head), Nina Simone (Black is the colour/Tomorrow is my turn), Odetta (Waterboy) and Patsy Cline (She’s got you). Angel City is the sole fully composed song by Giddens and like the great songs written on the album before her, it’s about gathering the artistic life angst and experiences that she can rightfully now celebrate as determination and strength. The aptly named album title says it all.
Giddens who also fronts the Grammy-winning Carolina Chocolate Drops brings them to Bluesfest as her touring band; Hubby J Jenkins (banjo, guitar, mandolin), cellist Malcolm Parson and brass multi-instrumentalist Rowan Corbett. Fans of soul, folk, blues, country and everything in-between are headed for an immense treat of musical skills and styles. That said please leave your good shoes at home.
Rhiannon Giddens plays Bluesfest Thursday 24 and Friday 25 March