Rhiannon Giddens | Freedom Highway: Album review

If the success of debut album Tomorrow is my turn gave multi-instrumentalist Rhiannon Giddens a solo career away from her Grammy award winning band the Carolina Chocolate Drops, second album Freedom Highway confirms we have a new musical genius for our generation.

Freedom Highway’s lyrics were inspired by shards of slave narratives, collected histories in print and prose, yet personal stories that are a huge part of Giddens’ soul… compositions that are sung with Gidden’s distinctly rich vocals, tints of grassroots genres and instrumental deviance to die for.

Birmingham Sunday’s Wurlitzer organ, loping bluegrass banjo and earnest vocals are echoed with the gospel chorus, “… and the choirs kept on singing of freedom.”  Come love come projects a swampy Louisiana setting, accompanied with a muddy blues inspired banjo. You may think banjo is strictly bluegrass, not when it is played by Giddens, who, having been classically trained picks her banjo as if she’s channelling the great John Lee Hooker, boom boom.

A cheeky honky tonk trumpet, layered with a rhythmic kettle-drum sounding banjo riff in Hey Be`be` shows off Giddens’ jazz prowess.  Jazz fusion is also heard with the let-your-hair-down heart puller, The Love We Almost Had. The sparkling instrumental; Follow the north star, showcases the soul of Giddens’ playing, no words need be sung, just roving riffs and dynamic hued notes.

It is exciting to have Rhiannon Giddens again on the Bluesfest bill this year – whilst filling dates at American fixtures such as the Chicago Jazz Festival, New Orleans Jazz Festival and the Rocky Mountain Folks Festival.  There should be no excuses to miss this mesmerising musician just down the highway this Easter.

Rhiannon Giddens plays Bluesfest  – Thursday 13, Friday 14 and Sunday 16 April.

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