Following the release of her second solo album Freedom Highway, Rhiannon Giddens, singer, songwriter, multi-instrumentalist, and founding member of Grammy Award-winning Carolina Chocolate Drops, is set to perform at Town Hall this autumn.
Nonesuch Records released Freedom Highway to widespread critical acclaim in February. The record includes nine original songs Giddens wrote or co-wrote while she and her band toured after Tomorrow Is My Turn’s 2015 release, along with a traditional song and two civil rights-era songs, ‘Birmingham Sunday’ and Staple Singers’ well-known ‘Freedom Highway’, from which the album takes its name.
Giddens co-produced Freedom Highway with multi-instrumentalist Dirk Powell in his Breaux Bridge, Louisiana studio, with the bulk of recording done in wooden rooms built prior to the Civil War. As producers, Giddens and Powell sought to release the stories already in the walls, allowing the space to be a voice in itself. This approach allowed for an emotional fearlessness and presence not always easy to achieve in the studio. Together they assembled the players, which included her superb touring band, local musicians from the bayou, a soulful horn section from New York, and talented family members. The principle recording was done over an intense eight day period. The result is an album that is rawer and more personal than its predecessor.
Giddens, who had previously won accolades and a Grammy Award as a member of the Carolina Chocolate Drops, made her solo debut with Tomorrow Is My Turn, which was one 2015’s most highly praised albums; The New York Times said, ‘her voice is a perpetually soulful marvel’, NPR said, Giddens ‘puts her own breathtaking mark on songs by Patsy Cline, Sister Rosetta Tharpe, Nina Simone, and others’, and the Guardian called it a ‘solo debut of phenomenal vocal power, effortlessly jumping between gospel holler, tender folk song, and lachrymose country ballad’. The album was Grammy nominated, and Giddens received the BBC Radio 2 Folk Award for Singer of the Year and the Steve Martin Prize for Excellence in Bluegrass and Banjo.