The debut solo album from Carolina Chocolate Drops singer Rhiannon Giddens, spotlighted in our year-end report on artists to watch in 2015, arrives Tuesday, and it is Giddens’ personalized salute to women artists who influenced her eclectic journey in music.
“Tomorrow Is My Turn” takes its title from a French pop song by Charles Aznavour, Marcel Stellman and Yves Stephanie, which American torch singer Nina Simone famously recorded in an English translation.
Other songs on the album include Dolly Parton’s “Don’t Let It Trouble Your Mind,” Sister Rosetta Tharpe’s “Up Above My Head,” and Jacque Wolfe’s African American work song, as popularized by Odetta, “Waterboy.” (Giddens also performs on "Late Night with David Letterman" on Tuesday night.)
It's an Americana tour de force in which Giddens demonstrates a musical acumen that spans pop, blues, folk, gospel and classical music, the latter reflecting the years she spent studying opera at Oberlin Music Conservatory in Ohio.
Calendar will have a more extensive profile in the days ahead on Giddens, who took part in the T Bone Burnett-curated "Another Day, Another Time" tribute concert in New York inspired by the Coen Brothers latest film "Inside Llewyn Davis." It was an all-star evening in which Giddens' performance generated the only standing ovation of the night.
That led Burnett to produce her solo album, and also draft her as part of the New Basement Tapes band with Elvis Costello, Marcus Mumford, My Morning Jacket's Jim James and Dawes Taylor Goldsmith to compose music for some two dozen sets of lyrics Bob Dylan wrote in 1967 when he and The Band were working on the body of songs that came to be known as "The Basement Tapes."
“We have had performers who’ve been able to take the music of this country all the way around the world several times, from Louis Armstong to Bob Dylan to Johnny Cash -- you can name a long line of performers who’ve had that sort of power,” Burnett told Pop & Hiss. “I believe she’s one of those people that can take this strange music that’s grown out of this convergence of cultures and take it back around the world.”
As she took time while in Los Angeles recently, Giddens said it would be a mistake to look at the title track simply as a statement of arrival from a singer who is stepping away from the band setting she's been in for the last decade into the spotlight as a solo artist.
Instead, she views that sentiment in the context of a desire to bring more attention to a raft of women artists, and their perspectives of life and love.
“My whole thing is representing a point of view that sometimes doesn’t get represented,” said Giddens, who has spent nearly a decade with the Chocolate Drops highlighting often-obscure African American folk, blues and pop songs.
“To be able to do a song that Odetta did, or even just to mention her name, then I feel like my job is done,” she said. "I feel like that's what I’m here for. If people appreciate that, it makes me happy, not so much for me personally, but for the perspective I’m representing.”
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