Over the past two years, Rhiannon Giddens has become one of the most promising voices in American roots music. The frontwoman for adventurous string-band trio the Carolina Chocolate Drops, she’s taken show-stealing turns on T Bone Burnett-helmed projects like last year’s New Basement Tapes, doing retooled Bob Dylan tunes alongside Marcus Mumford and Elvis Costello, and at the blockbuster 2013 New York concert that coincided with the release of the Coen brothers’ Inside Llewyn Davis. Now, with the Chocolate Drops on hiatus, Giddens is having a solo coming-out party, displaying her classical vocal training and ability to reanimate traditional music in her own nuanced image.
Produced by Burnett, Tomorrow Is My Turn is a feminist tour of the American roots canon — from Nina Simone to Dolly Parton to Odetta. Giddens digs into the tortured lost tales of folk-song heroines like Geeshie Wiley and Elizabeth Cotten. Backed by slick session pros, a song like Sister Rosetta Tharpe’s “Up Above My Head” doesn’t quite achieve the blazing gospel fury it deserves. But most of the time, as on a soulful version of Patsy Cline’s “She’s Got You,” Giddens imbues these classics with a freshness and vitality that feel right at home in 2015.