New Music Monday: Rhiannon Giddens

new music monday rhiannon giddens artist photo
Rhiannon Giddens artRhiannon Giddens released Tomorrow Is My Turn, one of the best albums of 2015, early in the year. Earlier this month the singer for Carolina Chocolate Drops released a follow-up EP, Factory Girl, containing tracks that were recorded during the Tomorrow sessions, but which did not make it onto the album. With that in mind, New Music Monday is taking a slight detour this week and focusing on both of Rhiannon Giddens’ releases from 2015.

Produced by the legendary T Bone Burnett, Tomorrow Is My Turn and Factory Girl both consist mainly of Giddens’ reinterpretations of artists who heavily influenced her, ranging from Dolly Parton (“Don’t Let It Trouble Your Mind”) to Nina Simone (the title track). Cover songs, and albums in particular, pose a tricky problem for artists; stray too far from the original and the essence of the song is lost, change too little and the question of why record the cover at all arises. Giddens walks that tightrope spectacularly. Her rendition of “She’s Got You,” for example, keeps the song’s tempo slow and smoothly incorporates an upright bass.

The story behind the recording of Tomorrow and Factory Girl is that Rhiannon Giddens came onstage near the end of a T Bone Burnett-curated tribute to early ’60s folk music and stole the show with her powerful take on Odetta’s “Waterboy.” At intermission, Burnett immediately went backstage and offered to produce her solo debut. From there it was not long before the sessions for Tomorrow Is My Turn came together.

As a founding member of Carolina Chocolate Drops, Giddens is no stranger to performing and arranging songs written by others because the band play a combination of original and traditional material. She had, however, been amassing songs she wanted to interpret from artists she wanted to acknowledge, many of which did not fit CCD’s sound. The sessions with Burnett proved an ideal ground for these ideas. Giddens sent the list to Burnett who was on board immediately. Giddens says of working with Burnett, “[h]e sets the table with a fine linen tablecloth, beautiful dishes, silver urns, everything is top notch, but you have to bring the food.”

Bring the food she did. Tomorrow Is My Turn is one of the strongest albums of 2015, and Giddens’ follow-up EP, Factory Girl, is a testament to how many great songs she recorded for the album. It is a shame that the tracks from Factory Girl did not make it onto Tomorrow, but the EP release is much more than just leftover songs.

Rhiannon Giddens’ album and EP are both out now on Nonesuch Records and available through Amazon (Factory Girl), iTunes (Factory Girl), and Nonesuch.

Outdoors

Watch Alex Honnold Climb 3200 Feet with No Ropes in ‘Free Solo’

What does it take to climb a 3200-foot-tall rock wall with no ropes? The new documentary 'Free Solo' documents everything it takes as climber Alex Hannold attempts to do just that.
Auto

Indian (Finally) Debuts FTR 1200 Racer Built for the Street

It's steeped in Americana, bathed in technology, and delivered to those who’d rather hit a dirt oval with the force of a neutron bomb.
Auto

Porsche’s Rebirthed 935 is Ready to Devour Racetracks Whole

The 935 Clubsport has racing air jacks that can pop the car up, and slam it back down, for when you need to pit quickly.
Culture

Fall Reading List: 10 Books to Read in October for Chills and Thrills

Poe, Dante, and King... the boys are back in town.
Food & Drink

Def Leppard’s Got Their Own Beer Now

No foolin’ — you’re going to need more than a photograph of this new brew from Elysian Brewing Company.
Food & Drink

The Best Playlist to Enjoy While Day Drinking

Next time you plan on day drinking, put on this Spotify playlist and ride the wave.
Living

What You Need to Create the Ultimate Man Cave for Music Lovers

Immerse yourself in sound and style with these products perfect for your own personal listening room.
Music

New Music Preview: Kamasi Washington, Neko Case, and Rolling Blackouts Coastal Fever

June has plenty of new album releases in store, but there are three particular records coming out this month that we can’t wait to hear.
Music

Best Road Trip Songs: Hit Play Then Hit the Gas

Ah, the open road! It beckons us to cast aside responsibility, embrace the unknown, jump in the car, and just go. Take this mixtape with you.
Food & Drink

Sink Your Teeth Into the Best Summer Barbecue Playlist

Take your cookout from genetically modified slumping to organic, farm-to-table bumping.
Outdoors

Cut the Cord with the Best Wireless Headphones for Running

It's easier to get in the zone with your favorite tunes when you don't have to worry about pesky wires.
Music

How Bose Sleepbuds ‘Non-headphones’ Promise a Better Night’s Sleep

Replace snoring partners or screaming babies with soothing sounds to help you fall (and stay) asleep.
Music

The Best Funk Songs for Getting Down

From roller rinks to velvet lounges, funk is the grout between the tiles of life that keeps our bathtub all sparkly, scrubba-dub-dub fun.