R is for Rhiannon Giddens


The March issue of Smithsonian magazine featured an article about banjo-playing singer-songwriter Rhiannon Giddens, who researches the African roots of America’s musical heritage. Her face seemed familiar to me, but I couldn’t recall where I’d seen her, so I searched YouTube. Her voice sounded familiar, too, but I couldn’t remember when I’d ever heard her.

I am now streaming her on Amazon Prime. Her voice is rich and versatile. Her songs remind me of the songs I grew up on, the protest songs, the folk music, like Joan Baez; Peter, Paul, and Mary; Simon and Garfunkel. Except hers are authentically African American.

In addition to banjo prowess, Giddens has mad fiddlin’ skills.

And here she is singing in Gaelic. (Hey, that’s Chris Thile on mandolin.)

I am so impressed with Rhiannon Giddens–her beautiful voice, the gorgeous songs she writes, and her musicology work. She is my latest musical obsession.

6 responses »

  1. Hi, Andrea! Rhiannon Giddens was, and perhaps still is, a member of a group called Carolina Chocolate Drops, whose material is maybe even more traditional and folky sounding than her solo work. She has done some acting here and there as well, which is possibly why she looks familiar to you somehow. I agree that she is very talented individual! And on a completely different note, Happy Easter!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Rhiannon is fully a solo artist now, and winning the MacArthur “Genius” Award in 2017 has opened a lot of doors for her. You might want to check out her podcast called Aria Code produced by The Metropolitan Opera or her recent Smithsonian Folkways collaboration with three fellow African-American roots musicians (Allison Russell, Amythyst Kiah, Leyla McCalla) called Songs of Our Native Daughters.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Ooh, and I just bought a banjo today (though I swore I was done buying instruments for a while just yesterday…grumble, grumble). Anyhoo, I was about to do some research and see who I should be listening for, and it sounds like she’s just right. I wonder if there’s a repeat of her on Austin City Limits to come up soon, because I DVR all the episodes now.

    Glad I saw this–now I’ve got some excellent music and motivation to get through.

    Liked by 1 person

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