Tomorrow Is My Turn
Nonesuch Records, 541708-2, (2015)
CD Review by Hermon Joyner
Over the past few years, I’ve noticed a certain kind of trend in music, one that is a part of the Americana or roots music genres. I’ve seen quite a few musicians that seem to be looking back at older performers and musical styles, and either letting those older sources inform their music or they let themselves be a new outlet for those older sounds. And this isn’t done in an ironic, detached, hipster-ish manner, but is delivered with affection and respect and even authenticity. They’re trying to recreate the energy and passion that was a part of those older, shall I say, first-generation artists. And in doing this, they are creating something quite new and vital that is still relevant.
Singer Rhiannon Giddens is a fine example of this type of contemporary musician, one that honors those that have come before her and at the same time seeks to take her own music and performance to another level. Beginning with her work in the group Carolina Chocolate Drops, singer Rhiannon Giddens sets her intentions on some of her personal heroes on her solo effort, Tomorrow Is My Turn, and turns in a first-rate performance filled with emotional resonance and vocal virtuosity.
Tomorrow Is My Turn opens with a little-known song from a little-known blues singer from the 1930s, Geeshie Wiley, called “Last Kind Words.” The rest of the album is filled with jewels from Dolly Parton, Odetta, Patsy Cline, Sister Roseeta Tharpe, Nina Simone, Elizabeth Cotten, Jean Ritchie, and then ends on a song written by Giddens herself, “Angel City.” In this selection of songs, Giddens spends time with work songs, spirituals, old-time folk songs, and even French ballads. This selection of songs is Rhiannon Giddens’ way for showing us where she has come from and who she holds dear in her heart. And it’s her obviously genuine affection for the material and the original singers that makes Giddens’ performance feel so heartfelt and authentic.
Giddens shapes her voice to suit the material in this album. From her rafter-shaking power in Waterboy to her softly caressing Celtic turn in “O Love Is Teasin’,” Giddens takes the opportunity to stretch her wings and show off her incredibly diverse range. But when it comes to her voice, and her innate talent, Giddens has few equals. I’ve heard other writers refer to her voice as “glorious” and I can’t disagree with that. Rhiannon Giddens has one of the few truly great voices and every song in Tomorrow Is My Turn is one to remember.
Produced by T Bone Burnett and backed up by an array of accomplished musicians, including Gabe Witcher, Paul Kowert, and Noam Pikelny of the The Punch Brothers, Tomorrow Is My Turn is a stunning debut solo effort from Rhiannon Giddens. I can only hope that there are many more to come from her. Tomorrow Is My Turn has already earned its place among my list of top recordings for 2015.
Song List: Last Kind Words; Don’t Let It Trouble Your Mind; Waterboy; She’s Got You; Up Above MY Head; Tomorrow Is My Turn; Black Is The Color; Round About The Mountain; Shake Sugaree; O Love Is Teasin’; Angel City.