Album Review – Freedom Highway by Rhiannon Giddens

 

Rhiannon Giddens is probably best known for her stint in the band The Carolina Chocolate Drops. Freedom Highway is her second solo album.

And what an album it is. Riding on top of a plethora of banjo licks, mixed in with a dose of soul, funk, and R&B, Giddens’ powerful gives life to stories of black in America from the opening track based on a  slave’s diary to the eponymous closing track, which is a cover of the classic Staples Singers song.

To be perfectly honest, I am enamored of this album and have a hard time envisioning that a better folk album will be released this year. Like all albums I listen to, I have my favorite tracks (in this case, the beautifully rendered Birmingham Sunday, the aspirational We Could Fly, and the explosively sung Come Love Come). But I don’t really think there is a bad track on this album, and I do think it benefits from full listening. There’s a story here, for the people who want to hear it. And Giddens own songs, as well as the tracks she chooses to cover, do a great job of telling it.

Recommendation: Buy It

Tracks I have a Playlist for: Birmingham Sunday, We Could Fly, Come Love Come, At the Purchaser’s Option

Tracks I would Thumbs down: none

Album Review – Jesca Hoop – Memories Are Now

Jesca Hoop is an American singer/songwriter. Memories Are Now is her fifth solo album. The album is comprised of 9 tracks and runs a little over 40 minutes.

This record is not stylistically cohesive, relying on a thematic examination of lost love to hang together. It took me an unusually long time to decide how I felt about the album.  On first listen, several tracks were more distracting than interesting and it took several listens to get past that.

Hoop has a reputation for being experimental, so her fans will likely not find anything on this album out of sorts, but those who are not familiar with her work should plan on taking quite a while to digest this album.

There were songs on this album I just couldn’t get past because of stylistic choices. Simon Says and Unsaid both lose me because I lose the vocal underneath very dirty instrumental design.

Recommendation: Stream it
Rating: 6.5 of 10

Songs I have a playlist for: Memories Are Now, The Lost Sky, Songs of Old, Pegasi
Song I would thumbs down: Simon Says, Unsaid