Ladies and Gentlemen, do yourself a great big favor and grab a copy of Freedom Highway by Rhiannon Giddens. Heck, while you’re at it grab her solo debut, 2015’s Tomorrow Is My Turn. This lady is no joke!! Giddens sings of the historic struggles of African-Americans in this country, especially those suffered by females in the Deep South of the 1950’s and 60’s. Her voice soars above the rootsy acoustic arrangements and brings each song home with a sultry quality; most evident in the cover of Mississippi John Hurt’s, The Angels Laid Him Away. Her lyrics speak to tragedies of decades past yet her voice is resoundingly positive in the hopeful sense that bringing these old wounds to the light in 2017 will, even in some small way, allow all who listen to avoid repeating history. While Giddens successfully brings the hardships of her characters to life, she is equally successful at avoiding the pointing of fingers at those who listen and is steadfast at blaming only the antagonist in each song.
Freedom Highway is not without hope. The final track, Freedom Highway, a cover of the Staples Singers 1965 civil rights anthem, aims directly at the perseverance , tenacity, and never say die attitude of those courageous enough to march through the streets from Selma to Montgomery, and protest with “sit-ins” in Greensboro and other southern cities.