|RHIANNON GIDDENS — Tomorrow Is My Turn
RHIANNON GIDDENS — Tomorrow Is My Turn ••• Rhiannon Giddens, singer, songwriter, multi–instrumentalist, and founding member of Carolina Chocolate Drops, makes her solo recording debut with the release of Tomorrow Is My Turn, out now on Nonesuch Records. The album, produced by T Bone Burnett, features a broad range of songs from genres as diverse as gospel, jazz, blues, and country, including works made famous by Dolly Parton, Patsy Cline, Odetta, and Nina Simone.
••• The songs here, says Giddens, “are all facets of the human condition.” Taken together, they answer the question Twyla Tharp posed at the beginning of Giddens’ solo adventure. Tomorrow Is My Turn is a composite portrait of “Ruby,” of America, and of Giddens herself, whose turn is clearly right now.
••• Burnett likened her performance to what he felt seeing Elton John’s U.S. career–making debut at the Troubadour in West Hollywood in 1970. “It was clear the first time I heard her at rehearsal,” he said, “that Rhiannon is next in a long line of singers that include Marian Anderson, Odetta, Mahalia Jackson, Rosetta Tharpe. We need that person in our culture.”
Born: Greensboro, NC
Album release: 06 February 2015
Record Label: Nonesuch
01 Last Kind Words (Geeshie Wiley) 4:14
02 Don't Let It Trouble Your Mind (Dolly Parton) 3:45
03 Waterboy (Jacques Wolfe) 3:45
04 She's Got You (Hank Cochran) 4:17
05 Up Above My Head (Sister Rosetta Tharpe) 3:09
06 Tomorrow Is My Turn (Charles Aznavour/Marcel Stellman/Yves Stéphane) 4:38
07 Black Is the Color (Traditional, arr. Rhiannon Giddens) 3:47
08 Round About the Mountain (Traditional, arr. Roland Hayes) 3:29
09 Shake Sugaree (Elizabeth Cotten) 4:25
10 O Love Is Teasin’ (Traditional, arr. Rhiannon Giddens) 4:31
11 Angel City (Rhiannon Giddens) 3:52
℗ 2014 Nonesuch Records Inc.
• 2015 Tomorrow Is My Turn The Billboard 200 #53
• 2015 Tomorrow Is My Turn Top Rock Albums #9
• Rhiannon Giddens, vocals (1–11)
• Colin Linden, electric guitar (1), guitar (2–11)
• Dennis Crouch, bass (1), acoustic bass (2–10)
• Mike Compton, mandolin (1)
• Jay Bellerose, drums (2–10), percussion (11)
• T Bone Burnett, acoustic guitar (2), guitar (4)
• Keefus Ciancia, keyboards (2, 4, 6–8, 10)
• Gabe Witcher, fiddle (2–5, 7, 9–11), horn arrangement (4), violin (6), viola (6), string arrangement (6), acoustic guitar (8)
• Jack Ashford, tambourine (2–5, 7–10)
• Hubby Jenkins, bones (2), acoustic guitar (3, 9), banjo (10)
• Paul Kowert, acoustic bass (3, 6–8, 10)
• Darrell Leonard, Lester Lovitt, trumpet (4)
• Tom Peterson, baritone saxophone (4)
• Joe Sublet, Jim Thompson, tenor saxophone (4)
• Jean Witherspoon, Tata Vega, background vocals (4, 5)
• Richard Dodd, cello (6)
• Adam Matta, beatbox (7)
• Jonathan Batiste, melodica (7)
• Noam Pikelny, banjo (8)
• Mike Bub, acoustic bass (11)
• Produced by T Bone Burnett
• Recorded by Vanessa Parr, Jason Wormer, and Michael Piersante
• Tracks 2–10 recorded by Vanessa Parr at The Village, Los Angeles, CA
• “Last Kind Words” recorded by Jason Wormer at House Of Blues, Nashville, TN
• “Angel City” recorded by Michael Piersante at Capitol Studios, Hollywood, CA
• Additional recording by Chris Wilkinson
• Assistant Engineers: Jeff Gartenbaum, Chris Wilkinson, Chandler Harrod
• Mixed by Jason Wormer at Olympic Studios, Los Angeles, CA; and The Village, Los Angeles, CA
• Mastered by Gavin Lurssen at Lurssen Mastering, Hollywood, CA
Equipment Tech: Zachary Dawes
Production Coordinator/Contractor: Ivy Skoff
• Design by Doyle Partners
• Photography by Dan Winters
LAST KIND WORDS
• The landscape of American music is littered with the ghosts of the unknowable and mysterious blues musician, scratchy voices on a 78 conjuring up an era and an energy long gone. No one represents this better, perhaps, than Geeshie Wiley, who, along with equally unknown L.V. Thomas, recorded a handful of sides for Paramount Records in 1930–31. “Last Kind Word Blues” calls to me in a way that I can’t really explain, but when T Bone suggested it for the record, I knew instantly it was the way to begin.
• Odetta has been cited as a major influence by folks like Bob Dylan, Bernice Johnson Reagon, and Janis Joplin, among many others. She was a soulful force for good in both the folk world and the civil rights world, and it’s an honor to present her arrangement of this work song–inspired piece. We were both classically trained, and so it was great to be able to let my throat loose!
DON’T LET IT TROUBLE YOUR MIND
• Dolly Parton has always been a hero of mine; not only did she not forget her roots and her people when she “hit it big,” she just happens to be an astute businesswoman and a damn fine songwriter. This one in particular is a great representative of her earlier work — the attitude is dripping from every word.
SHE'S GOT YOU
• Patsy Cline is of course the ultimate country singer, and one of the ultimate singers, period. But the way she took care of her family and friends, and the way she was able to take control of her career and inspire respect in an industry run by men, are just as impressive to me. Hubby Jenkins and I recast this in a sort of old–timey R&B vibe.
UP ABOVE MY HEAD
• Sister Rosetta Tharpe holds an important role in the evolution of American music; a great innovator, she not only unapologetically bridged the seemingly enormous chasm between secular and church music, she also helped pioneer the unique sound of rock’n’roll guitar. Her infectious spirit, impeccable musicality, and sheer joy in her faith are obvious in every recording and are a source of great inspiration.
TOMORROW IS MY TURN
• This is a poignant English translation of the Charles Aznavour song “L’amour c’est comme un jour.” I saw a video from 1968 of Nina Simone performing in London and it became the linchpin of this entire project. I was enthralled with this performance, showed it to friends, and it was at the top of the list when I started thinking about songs to do. This imagery was never too far from me for the recording of this album.
BLACK IS THE COLOR
• This traditional ballad has been covered by many, including Joan Baez and Nina Simone, but I have always loved best Sheila Kay Adams’ version. She is a ballad singer from western North Carolina and is a consummate interpreter of songs. I always thought her way was different and more soulful — I took that as a jumping off point, and pushed it further, and Jon Baptiste gives it wings with his righteous melodica playing. I also never really understood what was going on in the original ballad, but loved the passion it hinted at. So I rewrote all but the last verse (using an old phrase here and there) and it turned into a song about my husband; he’s a ginger but other than that it’s pretty accurate.
ROUND ABOUT THE MOUNTAIN
• This is one of many African–American spirituals that have been set for classical voice and piano — this one was arranged by the celebrated black tenor Roland Hayes. I was captivated by Florence Quivar’s rendition of it and brought it to the session — the challenge was to translate this spiritual through a classical lens back to the vernacular side. Gabe Witcher took the original Hayes arrangement and chordal structure and broke it down between guitar, banjo, and double bass, and I strove to find a timbre that fit in.
• Libba Cotten was a well–regarded guitar player who was born in North Carolina and discovered when she was keeping house for the Seeger family. She played a unique left–handed style of guitar but didn't have all her voice left in her later years — on her recording of “Shake Sugaree,” her granddaughter Brenda Evans sings the lyrics, about making the most out of what you got.
O LOVE IS TEASIN’
• I first heard Peggy Seeger sing this and immediately fell in love with it — as I found earlier recordings I got caught by Jean Ritchie’s version, with her idiosyncratic and hypnotic dulcimer playing. This is the ancient warning from woman to woman about the perfidies of man.
ABOUT THIS ALBUM:
• “The … real head turner was Rhiannon Giddens … She turned to the folk revival repertory of Odetta for the enigmatic 'Water Boy,' singing it with the fervor of a spiritual, the yips of a field holler and the sultry insinuation of the blues. And she followed it with a pair of songs in Gaelic, making them peal and dance … the performances were splendidly polished.” — New York Times
• Rhiannon Giddens, singer, songwriter, multi–instrumentalist, and founding member of Tais Awards & Grammy Award–winning Carolina Chocolate Drops, makes her solo recording debut with Tomorrow Is My Turn, due out February 10, 2015, on Nonesuch Records. (The vinyl follows on March 3.) The album was produced by T Bone Burnett. The limited–edition autographed prints previously available with Nonesuch Store orders are no longer available.
• Burnett first worked with Giddens when she performed last fall at a concert he curated at New York City’s Town Hall that was later broadcast on Showtime: Another Day, Another Time: Celebrating the Music of “Inside Llewyn Davis.” In the Huffington Post’s “5 Memorable Moments From the 'Inside Llewyn Davis' Concert,” the top spot went to “Dear Lord: Rhiannon Giddens. The chances are a good many people haven't heard of Rhiannon Giddens, but that's probably going to change ... Giddens performed two songs … and earned the night's one in–show standing ovation.”
• Backstage, Burnett was immediately moved to ask if he could produce a record with her. “It was clear the first time I heard her at rehearsal that Rhiannon is next in a long line of singers that include Marian Anderson, Odetta, Mahalia Jackson, Rosetta Tharpe,” Burnett says. “We need that person in our culture.”
• For her first solo disc, Giddens chose a broad range of songs from genres as diverse as gospel, jazz, blues, and country. In addition to the traditional “Black Is the Color,” tracks include Hank Cochran’s “She’s Got You,” made famous by Patsy Cline; Dolly Parton’s “Don't Let It Trouble Your Mind”; “O Love Is Teasin’,” popularized by the Kentucky–reared “mother of folk” Jean Ritchie; and Elizabeth Cotton’s “Shake Sugaree.”
• “I had already started putting together a list of songs that didn’t really fit into the Chocolate Drops world,” Giddens explains. “At the top was ‘Tomorrow Is My Turn’ [immortalized by Nina Simone]. Seeing Nina do it on YouTube was revelatory. I knew she’d gone through a lot of hard times, as so many people did in that time period. Watching her sing this song, with the words ‘tomorrow is my turn,’ I began to think about the struggle of her and women like her.” The significance of this song led Giddens to make it the title of the album as well. “Other songs started getting on my list and they were all by women or interpreted by women,” she says.
• Tomorrow Is My Turn was recorded in Los Angeles and Nashville, with a multi–generational group of players whom Burnett assembled. Among them are fiddle player Gabe Witcher and double bassist Paul Kowert of label–mates Punch Brothers; percussionist Jack Ashford of Motown’s renowned Funk Brothers; drummer Jay Bellerose; guitarist Colin Linden; legendary backup singer Tata Vega; veteran Nashville session bassist Dennis Crouch; and Giddens’ Drops touring band–mates, multi–instrumentalist Hubby Jenkins and beat–boxer Adam Matta.
• Tomorrow Is My Turn follows Giddens’ work with Elvis Costello, Taylor Goldsmith, Jim James, and Marcus Mumford on Lost On The River: The New Basement Tapes, an album also produced by Burnett that was released in November 2014. Her contribution was hailed by Rolling Stone magazine as the “showstopper…evoking antebellum blues with a magnificent voice that interrogates the myths stirred up at Big Pink.” The New York Times agreed, saying “On lead vocals she’s the album’s revelation, singing melodies that hark back to Celtic modes with a decisive presence and a haunting grace.”
• This is one of the only fully composed songs on this record, and the only personal viewpoint, but it feels like a summation of many things at this point in my artistic career. I wrote this after finishing the recording of The New Basement Tapes project — an intense, difficult, and incredibly rewarding experience. I had come into the recording with a load of baggage that I ended up working through as I wrote this song. As I was considering it for this record, it struck me that the lyrics also represented how I felt about all the amazing artists who had inspired this project.
ABOUT RHIANNON GIDDENS
• It was toward the end of the T Bone Burnett–curated September 2013 Another Day, Another Time concert at New York City’s Town Hall — a celebration of the early ’60s folk revival that had inspired the Joel and Ethan Coen film Inside Llewyn Davis — when singer Rhiannon Giddens indisputably stole the show. Performing Odetta’s “Water Boy” with, as the New York Times put it, “the fervor of a spiritual, the yips of a folk holler, and the sultry insinuation of the blues,” Giddens brought the star–studded audience to its feet. She was the talk of the lobby during intermission as those attendees unfamiliar with her Grammy Award–winning work as a member of African–American folk interpreters Carolina Chocolate Drops wondered who exactly Rhiannon Giddens was, with her elegant bearing, prodigious voice, and fierce spirit.
• Backstage, Burnett already knew the answer and was immediately moved to ask if she was ready to make her own record. “It was clear the first time I heard her at rehearsal that Rhiannon is next in a long line of singers that includes Marian Anderson, Ethel Waters, Rosetta Tharp, Odetta, Mahalia Jackson, Nina Simone,” Burnett says. “We need that person in our culture. She is, in fact, that person in our culture.”
• On her Nonesuch solo debut Tomorrow Is My Turn, Giddens and Burnett revisit “Water Boy,” its Odetta–arranged work–song rhythm serving as both provocation and a statement of power. Giddens delivers an equally thunderous rendition, one made all the more striking when placed between a gentle, ruminative interpretation of Dolly Parton’s “Don’t Let It Trouble Your Mind” and a version of Hank Cochran’s “She’s Got You,” popularized by Patsy Cline, that Giddens imbues with “an old–timey R&B vibe,” abetted by Carolina Chocolate Drops band–mate Hubby Jenkins. The breadth of musical vision on Tomorrow Is My Turn fulfills the promise of that brief but stunning star turn at Town Hall. The album incorporates gospel, jazz, blues, and country, plus a hint of proto–rock and roll, and Giddens displays an emotional range to match her dazzling vocal prowess throughout.
• Reviving, interpreting, and recasting traditional material from a variety of sources has been central to Giddens’ career, especially in her groundbreaking work with the Carolina Chocolate Drops (CCDs). With their two Nonesuch albums, the CCDs have investigated and promoted the foundational role African–American performers and songwriters have played in folk–music history, while making recordings that are vital, contemporary, and exuberant. With Tomorrow Is My Turn, Giddens has embarked on a more personal sort of journey, but with a nod towards history as well. She’s chosen from a broad array of songs associated with the female artists who are her musical and spiritual forebears and fashioned an album that serves both as patchwork autobiography and as a subtle tribute to these artists and their often hard–won legacies.
• Giddens charts a clear path through Tomorrow Is My Turn: “We start off with the unknown and end up with the specific.” Opening track “Last Kind Words” dates back to a rare 1930 78 “race record” and a largely unknown singer named Geeshie Wiley. To Giddens, “The timbre of the singer’s voice, the uniqueness of the chord structure…it reminds me of my grandmother and that era.”
• Though she had recorded more songs than could fit on the final album, Giddens and Burnett spent considerable time pondering a track sequence could best help tell the story Giddens was constructing. It wasn’t until they decided at the 11th hour to cut “Last Kind Words” — a song they’d come across independent of each other — that they found the focus they’d been searching for. As Giddens explains, “I made the record with the idea of these songs either written or performed by American women. It’s sort of a survey. We know a lot about most of the people represented on the record, but I thought it would be really cool to open up with ‘Last Kind Words’ because most people have no idea who Geeshie was or what she did; it kind of represents every woman from her time, every unknown black woman toiling away. I really liked that idea. Who knows how many more were making incredible music, and writing incredible songs like that, living these lives?”
• Her take on the traditional “Round About the Mountain,” inspired by African–American mezzo–soprano Florence Quivar’s recording, combines gospel fervor with operatic intensity. A version of Sister Rosetta Tharpe’s “Up Above My Head,” underscored by fuzz–toned rockabilly guitar, is, conversely, joyful call–and–response testifying. “O Love Is Teasin’,” popularized by the Kentucky–reared “mother of folk” Jean Ritchie, has a melancholic Celtic air, while her updating of “Black Is the Color” swaps somber for seductive. Its yearning lyric, largely rewritten by Giddens and propelled by a practically club–worthy R&B swing, is autobiographical — recast from a tribute to a departed partner into a love song for her very–much–alive Irish husband. (“He’s a ginger, but otherwise it’s pretty accurate,” quips Giddens in her album liner notes.)
• The life that Giddens explores at the climax of Tomorrow Is My Turn is her own creative one, on the lilting, self–penned ballad “Angel City.” Though she regards herself far more as singer than songwriter, “Angel City,” composed in the course of a single night during the recording of the Burnett–helmed The New Basement Tapes project, fits perfectly at the close of the set, gently paying homage to the elder artists whose work comprise the rest of the album. “It was these women, these artists, who had helped me, who had come with me on this journey, and here are lyrics that represented that.”
• Giddens’ journey, in a larger sense, began in the Piedmont region of North Carolina, where she was raised — an area with a rich legacy of old–time music, black and white, that Giddens would explore in depth after college. Much like the classically trained Odetta, she originally envisioned a career in opera and earned a degree in vocal performance at Oberlin Conservatory. A side interest in contra–dance calling led her towards old–time music. That became her overarching passion when she returned to the Greensboro area. She met her soon–to–be band members at 2005’s Black Banjo Gathering in Boone, North Carolina, and got schooled in the Piedmont’s traditional music by Joe Thompson, an elderly African–American fiddle player who passed on to Giddens and her cohorts many of the songs that would comprise their early repertoire.
• As they began discussing a solo record, Burnett told Giddens, “Now is your time. Why don’t you just make the record you’ve always dreamed of?” And she had, in fact, been mentally preparing a rundown of songs she wanted to interpret and artists she wanted to acknowledge. Giddens found further inspiration via the choreographer Twyla Tharp, when Tharp was developing Cornbread Duet, a dance piece set to a suite of songs by CCDs that had its world premiere this past April at the Brooklyn Academy of Music. Among the tracks Tharp had selected was the brash “Ruby, Are You Mad at Your Man?,” from CCDs’ second Nonesuch album, Leaving Eden. Giddens was explaining to Tharp that CCDs was in flux, its lineup changing, its next move undecided. They were listening to “Ruby” and, Giddens recounts, “It’s a really cool, strong, woman’s song, and Twyla asked ‘Who’s Ruby? I want to know who Ruby is. I think that’s what you should do: you should find Ruby.’ And that idea stayed with me.
• “I had already started putting together a list of songs that didn’t really fit into the Chocolate Drops world,” Giddens explains. “I had this short list and at the top was ‘Tomorrow Is My Turn’ [co–written by Charles Aznanour but immortalized by Nina Simone]. Seeing Nina do it is revelatory. I was checking her out for some reason, to get a little deeper into what she did, and I stumbled across this YouTube video of her singing it live. I knew she’d gone through a lot of hard times, as so many people did in that time period. Watching her sing this song, with the words ‘tomorrow is my turn,’ I began to think about the struggle of her and women like her. It really hit me.” The significance of this song led Giddens to make it the title of the album as well. “Other songs started getting on my list and they were all by women or interpreted by women,” she says.
• When Giddens sent the list to T Bone, he said, “Great, let’s do it all.” Well, almost all of it. He suggested Giddens swap out one Dolly Parton song she’d selected in favor of Parton’s lovely “Don’t Let It Trouble Your Mind.” Says Giddens, “That is where T Bone’s encyclopedic knowledge of music came in handy. He said, ‘I always wanted someone to do this song and no one has done it since Dolly.’ I had to go find it and listen. T Bone is so good at setting the table. He sets the table with a fine linen tablecloth, beautiful dishes, silver urns, everything is top notch, but you have to bring the food. You have to bring the meat of it, and he will take care of the rest. It’s a very cool way of doing things.”
• Tomorrow Is My Turn was recorded in Los Angeles and Nashville, with a multi–generational group of players whom Burnett assembled. Among them are fiddle player Gabe Witcher and double bassist Paul Kowert of label–mates Punch Brothers; percussionist Jack Ashford of Motown’s renowned Funk Brothers; inventive drummer and Burnett stalwart Jay Bellerose; veteran folk–blues guitarist Colin Linden; legendary backup singer Tata Vega; and Nashville session great, bassist Dennis Crouch. Giddens enthuses, “We had Dennis and Paul on stand–up bass at the same time on some of these tracks. They are all ‘musicians’ musicians’ and they did cool stuff they don’t always get the opportunity to play. It was a bit of a challenge for them too, all these different kinds of music; every day was something new. We’d start the day by watching the original inspiration for the song on YouTube, and then we would go cut it. They were a diverse group of people, but it felt like a real band.”
• Through the process of creating this album with such a disparate set of musicians and practically a century’s worth of songs, she also illustrates the democratic way American music has taken shape and evolved: “The strength of American music is in bringing all these things together — Celtic, gospel, jazz, folk—all these things that make American music great. Putting them side by side and having a production that pulls it all into a cohesive whole shows how related all these things are.”
• The songs here, says Giddens, “are all facets of the human condition.” Taken together, they answer the question Twyla Tharp posed at the beginning of Giddens’ solo adventure. Tomorrow Is My Turn is a composite portrait of “Ruby,” of America, and of Giddens herself, whose turn is clearly right now. — Michael Hill
Press: Saks and Co.
By RANDY LEWIS
• Mr Sypher doesn't just play the bass, he caresses the bass — he schools the bass; he makes that bass do whatever he wants it to do. Known all around New York as the Best Bass Player You Could Ever Want To Play With(tm) he has sharpened his skills on Irish, bluegrass, old time, cajun — any music that needs a bass (and even a few that don't), he has played, and played beautifully. If a bass player could play the phone book, he would be the one.
|RHIANNON GIDDENS — Tomorrow Is My Turn