TAS Rated 4/5 Music, 4/5 Sonics in the December 2023 Issue of The Absolute Sound!
PopMatters' The 15 Best Americana Albums of 2023 - Rated 7/15!
Rhiannon Giddens 'You're the One" is the GRAMMY, MacArthur and Pulitzer-winning singer, composer, and instrumentalist's third solo studio album and her first of all original songs; her last solo album was 2017's critically acclaimed Freedom Highway. This collection of 12 songs written over the course of Giddens' career bursts with life-affirming energy, drawing from the folk music that she knows so deeply, as well as its pop descendants. The album was produced by Jack Splash (Kendrick Lamar, Solange, Alicia Keys, Valerie June, Tank and the Bangas) and recorded at Criteria Recording Studios in Miami with a band composed of Giddens's closest musical collaborators from the past decade alongside musicians from Splash's own Rolodex, topped off with a horn section, making an impressive ten- to twelve-person ensemble.Giddens made You're the One with some of her closest musical collaborators from the past decade, including her partner, Italian multi-instrumentalist Francesco Turrisi, plus multi-instrumentalist Dirk Powell, bassist Jason Sypher, and Congolese guitarist Niwel Tsumbu. The album features electric and upright bass, conga, Cajun and Piano accordions, guitars, a Western string section, and Miami horns, among other instruments, capturing the inclusive spirit that channels through all of her work."I hope that people just hear American music," Giddens says. "Blues, jazz, Cajun, country, gospel, and rock - it's all there. I like to be where it meets organically. They're fun songs, and I wanted them to have as much of a chance as they could to reach people who might dig them but don't know anything about what I do. If they're introduced to me through this record, they might go listen to other music I've made and make some new discoveries." You're the One opens with "Too Little, Too Late, Too Bad," an R&B blast (complete with background "shoops" and horns) that takes a titan for inspiration. "I listened to a bunch of Aretha Franklin, and then turned to fellow Aretha-nut Dirk Powell and said, 'Let's write a song she might have sung!'" Giddens recalls. Her danceable, vivacious tribute to Franklin's sound is a vocal showcase, spotlighting her soaring high notes and nearly-growling low ones. Another highlight, "If You Don't Know How Sweet It Is," intentionally puts an edgier spin on the sass of Dolly Parton's early work.One of the album's most powerful moments is "Another Wasted Life," inspired by the tragic story of Kalief Browder, who was incarcerated on Rikers Island for three years without trial. The lone featured guest on the album is Jason Isbell on "Yet to Be," the story of a Black woman and an Irish man falling in love in America.
One of the most lauded singers of the new millennium
Working with Jack Splash - a producer whose résumé includes recordings by Alicia Keys, Solange Knowles, Jazmine Sullivan, Mayer Hawthorne, and Kendrick Lamar - Giddens creates what is effectively her crossover album, touching upon pop and soul without ever losing sight of either her roots or her impeccable taste....It's remarkable how these fusions feel bright and lively and every bit as sharp as the Americana-leaning Freedom Highway. Giddens may be emphasizing a different side of her personality...but she's made no compromises.
The record has a modern feel, occasionally drifting toward pop but without getting an annoying sheen. The approach works mainly because it allows the variety of music to cohere. Giddens moves from Motown studios to Appalachia farms, Southern swamp, and New York jazz clubs. Still, the album's tone holds together, a necessary element given the stretch of the recordings. Giddens' exploration of the extensive history of American music continues to be compelling and enlightening.
A musical gumbo that shows this gifted North Carolina native can deftly straddle folk, blues, country, jazz and pop. Don't fence her in.
- Vinyl LP
- Gatefold Jacket
- Made in Canada
- Too Little, Too Late, Too Bad
- You're the One
- Yet to Be (feat. Jason Isbell)
- Wrong Kind of Right
- Another Wasted Life
- You Louisiana Man
- If You Don't Know How Sweet It Is
- Hen in the Foxhouse
- Who Are You Dreaming Of
- You Put the Sugar in My Bowl
- Way Over Yonder
- Good Ol' Cider