Looking at the Work of Rhiannon Giddens

Today we celebrate the birthday of Rhiannon Giddens, a talented singer and musician who works in the country, folk, and blues genre. She is most well-known for her instrumental work with the fiddle and banjo that she performed in her bands. During her time with Carolina Chocolate Drops, their album Genuine Negro Jig (2010) won the Grammy Award for Traditional Folk Album. Continuing onward, Giddens claimed more awards, such as Folk Alliance International’s Album of the Year for two of her albums, Tomorrow is My Turn (2015) and Freedom Highway (2017).

In recent years she joined the band Our Native Daughters, which creates music that reclaims Black history and tells stories of Black womanhood. Giddens also makes work individually, whether it’s original songs or covers of classics.

1. “Moonshiner’s Daughter” (2015)

A lovely strum, pluck, and beat introduce the song as Giddens comes into play vocally. “I’ll fight you if you wanna / I was born to break the law” Giddens sings with a swagger. In a song of resilience and perseverance, Giddens sings about being able to hold herself – nothing will kick her down or stop her. Closing the song, she sings the lines, “Am I girl? Am I woman? / Doesn’t matter, I’m the best.”

2. “Don’t Call Me Names” (2020)

In her original song, Giddens brings about an electrifying tune composed of a guitar and drums. It’s a track about rising with inner strength and self-worth. “I have another life, one that’s true, one that’s free and independence.” This empowering song puts toxic behavior to a halt. “If you wanna talk about me, look me in the eyes,” Giddens asserts.

3. “I Shall Not Be Moved” (2021)

This is a revised cover sung by Giddens and has previously been covered by other artists such as Johnny Cash and Ella Fitzgerald. It’s an old protest and union song with biblical origins, and Giddens provides a soulful cover to the historically significant piece with her lightly strung instrumental and soothing voice.

“On my way to justice, I shall not be moved / Like a tree planted by the water / I shall not be moved.”

4. “Don’t Let It Trouble Your Mind” (2015) Giddens brings an uplifting touch to this Dolly Parton cover. Her distinctive soulful voice shines bright in the classic country-folk song. Through her talent, both vocally and instrumentally, Giddens is bringing a revival to folk tunes.

“If you don’t love me, leave me / And don’t let it trouble your mind.”

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