Album Review: Rhiannon Giddens, Tomorrow is My Turn

Rhiannon Giddens Tomorrow is My Turn

Rhiannon Giddens
Tomorrow is My Turn

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Although Rhiannon Giddens has been a fixture on the Americana circuit as the frontwoman for the terrific Carolina Chocolate Drops, it’s on her solo debut, Tomorrow Is My Turn, that Giddens truly announces herself as an artist. On a shrewdly chosen collection of songs that draw from a diverse sample of American roots music, Giddens and producer T Bone Burnett showcase a fearless approach to genre that never once allows easy signifiers to interfere with her forceful and intuitive interpretations.

Giddens’ performances on Carolina Chocolate Drops tracks like “Country Girl” and “Hit ‘Em Up Style” were technically flawless, but not even those strong performances hinted at the masterful vocal stylist on display throughout Tomorrow Is My Turn. Though her instrument is impressive— she’s blessed with a wide range and effortless power, along with a lovely timbre and unerring sense of pitch— it’s the ways that Giddens chooses to use her voice that makes the album so compelling.

There’s a real fearlessness and a wry sense of playfulness in the way she varies her phrasing and even her tone and timbre to match her interpretation of individual tracks. In that regard, the album truly recalls Trisha Yearwood at her best. Here, Giddens croons perhaps the loveliest rendition of “She’s Got You” since Patsy Cline’s iconic turn, and she belts and growls with conviction on “Waterboy.” Her version of Dolly Parton’s “Don’t Let it Trouble Your Mind” is plaintive and melancholy, while she incorporates some jazz-like improvisational runs and staccato phrasing on lead single “Black is the Color,” the album’s most contemporary-sounding track.

Burnett layers an EDM-style rhythm track (courtesy of some impressive beat-boxing by Adam Matta) on “Black is the Color” and uses thundering percussion to create powerful dynamic shifts on “Waterboy,” but his production is fairly unobtrusive. While Burnett’s MO tends toward some of the stuffier, more reserved trends in Americana music, his arrangements here are thoughtful and spirited without ever pulling focus from Giddens.

That’s for the best, really, because Giddens’ vocal performances are, to a one, extraordinary. On the languid title track, a standard most often associated with Nina Simone, she sings of staking a claim on what she feels is rightfully hers. But Tomorrow Is My Turn is the sound of one of the finest singers in contemporary music finding her voice and striding assuredly into the limelight without a moment’s, let alone a day’s, hesitation.

Recommended Tracks:  “Dont Let it Trouble Your Mind,” “Tomorrow Is My Turn,” “She’s Got You”

9 Comments

  1. I’ve listened to this album twice today. I love it! “She’s Got You” and “Up Above My Head” are my favorites, but the whole thing is fantastic! I didn’t think I’d like “Black Is the Color” at first, but once the song got going, I ended up really liking it.

  2. I listened and loved it too. Jonathan I really liked how you connected her to Trisha Yearwood. Although I don’t know if Yearwood would be so bold and unique in her song choices, their chops are equally the same.

  3. This is an incredible album, and I’m so excited that the stuff we usually cover only in year-end lists is getting attention upon its release.

    “Don’t Let it Trouble Your Mind” is the primary reason I’m dying for RCA to finally digitally release Dolly Parton’s In the Good Old Days album from 1968. It’s an amazing song, and I’m so impressed that Giddens dug that one up.

    A powerhouse vocalist with Emmylou/Linda taste is something we’re missing right now in country music, and I’d love to see Giddens step into that role.

  4. I’m still waiting for 7 Dolly albums to be released digitally (and all but two of her albums with Porter Wagoner) to complete my collection.

  5. Also, while fan loyalty is great, it seems as though country singers are able to coast a lot longer on a formula than pop stars. Jason Aldean and Luke Bryan crank out single after interchangeable single, but the fickle nature of pop seems to require that artists be innovative and change as they are not able to top the charts based on name recognition alone.

  6. Al,

    Thanks for the note here. I’ve updated the review to include a credit to Matta for his beat-boxing!

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