Acclaimed vocalist, banjoist, and fiddler—Rhiannon Giddens—has a background in American roots and R&B music and was co-founder of the Grammy®-winning group the Carolina Chocolate Drops. Giddens' latest album, Freedom Highway, is a sonically diverse, 200-year journey through the power of African-American and Appalachian songcraft.
Giddens shows us that while America was never as innocent as some nostalgists want to believe, its young spirit still lives within, leading those who can hear its voice toward a better place down the road.”
Rhiannon Giddens is an American original—culling the music and lyrics of our nation’s past to point the way to a brighter future, with a voice that is emotionally fearless, unforgettably dexterous, and “a perpetually soulful marvel” (The New York Times). Raised amid the rich old-time traditions of North Carolina’s Piedmont region, Giddens pivoted from an Oberlin-curated career in opera to American roots and R&B music—first as co-founder of the Grammy®-winning Carolina Chocolate Drops (who graced Purdue’s stage in 2011) and now as an acclaimed solo vocalist, banjoist, and fiddler. Giddens also recently dueted with country sensation Eric Church on his hit single “Kill a Word,” joined T Bone Burnett and Elvis Costello in adding music to newly discovered Bob Dylan lyrics in The New Basement Tapes project, and performed a recurring role on the CMT series Nashville. Giddens’ latest album, 2017’s Freedom Highway, is a sonically diverse, 200-year journey through the power of African- American songcraft. The struggles and successes showcased in this mixture of original and traditional works reverberate across generations, as musically at home in 1817 as it is in 2017. Drawing on slave narratives from the 1800s, the Civil Rights Movement of the 1960s, and contemporary African-American experiences, Giddens captures, in her words, “voices demanding to be heard, to impart the hard-earned wisdom of a tangled, difficult, complicated history.” Freedom Highway is by turns buoyantly playful (“Hey Bébé”), gently poignant (“We Could Fly”), tearfully heartbreaking (“At the Purchaser’s Option”), and powerfully polemic (“Better Get it Right the First Time”). Simultaneously horrified and inspired by history, Giddens understands our nation is only as strong as all of its people and no true prosperity can be found if any voice is left unheard.