Rhiannon Giddens (born February 21, 1977) is an American musician. She is a founding member of the country, blues and old-time music band Carolina Chocolate Drops, where she is the lead singer, violinist, and banjo player.
Rhiannon Giddens in 2007
|Born||February 21, 1977|
Greensboro, North Carolina, United States
Giddens is a native of Greensboro, North Carolina, an alumna of the North Carolina School of Science and Mathematics, and a 2000 graduate of Oberlin Conservatory at Oberlin College, where she studied opera.
In addition to her work with the Grammy-winning Chocolate Drops, Giddens has released two solo albums: Tomorrow Is My Turn (2015) and Freedom Highway (2017). Her latest album, There Is No Other, is a collaboration with Italian multi-instrumentalist Francesco Turrisi released in May 2019. She will also be appearing on a new Smithsonian Folkways collection documenting Mike Seeger's final trip through Appalachia in 2009, Just Around The Bend: Survival and Revival in Southern Banjo Styles – Mike Seeger’s Last Documentary, which is planned for release in late September 2019.
In 2005, Giddens, who at that time was spending time competing in Scottish music competitions, attended the Black Banjo Then and Now Gathering, in Boone, North Carolina. There she met Dom Flemons and Sule Greg Wilson. The three started playing together professionally as a "postmodern string band", Sankofa Strings. During that same time period, Giddens was also a regular caller at local contra dances and featured in a Celtic music band called Gaelwynd. Later in 2005, after both Gaelwynd and Sankofa Strings had released CD albums, Giddens and Flemons teamed up with other musicians and expanded the Sankofa Strings sound into what was to become the Grammy winning Carolina Chocolate Drops.
In 2007, Giddens contributed fiddle, banjo, "flat-footin'" dancing and additional vocals to Talitha MacKenzie's album Indian Summer.
Performing as a soprano, Giddens and mezzo-soprano Cheryse McLeod Lewis formed a duo called Eleganza to release a CD in 2009. Because I Knew You... consists of classical, religious, theater, and movie music. Giddens and Lewis were middle school classmates who reconnected after college while working in the same office. The friends started singing together in 2003, but did not begin recording until 2008.
As of November 12, 2013, Giddens became the only original member of the Carolina Chocolate Drops.
In 2013, Giddens began pushing further into her solo career. Giddens participated in "Another Day, Another Time", a concert inspired by the Coen brothers film Inside Llewyn Davis. Many critics have stated that Giddens had the best performance at what was called "the concert of the year". Late in 2013, Giddens contributed the standout a cappella track "We Rise" to the LP We Are Not For Sale: Songs of Protest by the NC Music Love Army – a collective of activist musicians from North Carolina founded by Jon Lindsay and Caitlin Cary. Giddens' protest song joins contributions from many other Carolina musical luminaries on the Lindsay-produced compilation (11/26/13 via Redeye Distribution), which was created to support the NC NAACP and the Moral Monday movement.
In early 2014 Giddens recorded for Lost on the River: The New Basement Tapes alongside Elvis Costello, Marcus Mumford, Taylor Goldsmith and Jim James. The album was produced by T-Bone Burnett and is a compilation of partial, unreleased lyrics written by Bob Dylan.
In February 2015, Giddens released her debut solo album, Tomorrow Is My Turn, on Nonesuch Records. Also produced by Burnett, the album includes songs made famous by Patsy Cline, Odetta, Dolly Parton, and Nina Simone, among others. The Wall Street Journal said the album "confirms the arrival of a significant talent whose voice and distinctive approach communicate the simmering emotion at the core of the songs." Additionally, the Los Angeles Times called the album "a collection that should solidify her status as one of the bright new lights in pop music."
In July 2015, she had a big stage at world music folk and dance festival at TFF Rudolstadt in Germany. Her performance was also broadcast live by the German national public radio Deutschlandfunk. Rhiannon appears on Jon Lindsay's single "Ballad of Lennon Lacy" (Redeye Distribution, August 21). The song tackles the mysterious hanging death of Lennon Lacy, a black teen from rural Bladenboro, North Carolina. The case is currently under investigation by the FBI, and widely suspected to be a lynching.
On November 27, 2015, to coincide with the Black Friday Record Store Day event, Giddens released Factory Girl (EP) on Nonesuch Records, which contained music culled from the same T Bone Burnett–produced sessions that yielded Tomorrow Is My Turn. A digital version of Factory Girl was made available December 11, 2015. The sessions for the album and EP took place in Los Angeles and Nashville, with a multi-generational group of players assembled by Burnett. Musicians on Factory Girl include Burnett; fiddle player Gabe Witcher and double bassist Paul Kowert of Punch Brothers; percussionist Jack Ashford of Motown's renowned Funk Brothers; drummer Jay Bellerose; guitarist Colin Linden; veteran Nashville session bassist Dennis Crouch; and Giddens's Carolina Chocolate Drops touring band-mates, multi-instrumentalist Hubby Jenkins and beat-boxer Adam Matta.
Rhiannon appeared on Jools Holland's Hootenanny on December 31, 2015, shown on BBC Two. She performed songs from her 2015 album Tomorrow Is My Turn, including "Waterboy" and a cover of "St James Infirmary Blues" with Tom Jones.
She was selected to take part in Transatlantic Sessions in January 2016. This collaboration between American and Celtic musicians is a coveted honor. The ensemble performed as part of Celtic Connections in Glasgow, and a short UK/Irish tour. Her performances on the tour included the stirring tribute to David Bowie "It Ain't Easy". Later in the year, Giddens became the first American to be honoured as Folk Singer of the Year at the BBC Radio 2 Folk Awards. Later in the year, it was also announced that she would be receiving the prestigious Steve Martin Prize for Excellence in Banjo and Bluegrass. Winning this award makes Giddens both the only woman and the only person of color to receive the prize in its six-year history. In 2016, it was also announced that Giddens and the Carolina Chocolate Drops would be inducted into the North Carolina Music Hall of Fame.
In 2017, Giddens became only the fourth musician to perform at both the Newport Folk and Jazz Festivals. Later that year, she delivered the keynote address at the World of Bluegrass Business Conference 2017. According to Bluegrass Today, "Giddens shattered long-held stereotypes...By the time she was done, she had systematically dismantled the myth of a homogenous Appalachia."  In June 2017, Giddens appeared in the multi award-winning documentary The American Epic Sessions, directed by Bernard MacMahon, where she recorded "One Hour Mama" and English folk ballad "Pretty Saro", on the restored first electrical sound recording system from the 1920s. Both performances were released on Music from The American Epic Sessions: Original Motion Picture Soundtrack. Upon hearing the playback of these direct-to-disc recordings recordings, she exclaimed "you feel like your soul is coming out of the speaker."
In October 2017, Giddens was named one of the 2017 class of MacArthur "Genius" Fellows. The organization noted, "Giddens's drive to understand and convey the nuances, complexities, and interrelationships between musical traditions is enhancing our musical present with a wealth of sounds and textures from the past."  Rhiannon further demonstrated the broad range of her musical interests with several subsequent projects. In early November, she performed as a soprano with the Louisville Orchestra in Teddy Abrams' multimedia tribute to Muhammad Ali, The Greatest. A week later, she sang with the Cincinnati Pops Orchestra for their live recording of American Originals: 1918, which explored the early development of jazz during the post WWI era. In January 2018, Giddens co-produced (with Dirk Powell) Songs of Our Native Daughters for Smithsonian Folkways. Written and recorded with fellow artists Amythyst Kiah, Leyla McCalla, and Allison Russell, "The album confronts the ways we are culturally conditioned to avoid talking about America's history of slavery, racism, and misogyny."  Also in early 2018, the Nashville Ballet announced that Rhiannon Giddens has been commissioned to write the music for Lucy Negro, Redux, a new dance choreographed by artistic director, Paul Vasterling. Based on the book of the same name by Caroline Randall Williams, its premise is that Shakespeare's Dark Lady was of African descent. The ballet premiered in February 2019. Then in March 2018, Giddens fulfilled a previously announced engagement as guest curator for the Cambridge Folk Festival by inviting Peggy Seeger, Kaia Kater, Birds of Chicago, Amythyst Kiah, and Yola Carter to perform at the event.
Giddens recorded vocals for Silo Songs, an audio installation created by composer Brad Wells for Hancock Shaker Village. She contributed a song, "Mountain Hymn", to the popular video game Red Dead Redemption 2 which was released in October 2018. The song was written with Daniel Lanois. Beginning in December 2018, she is hosting a podcast called Aria Code with Rhiannon Giddens produced by the Metropolitan Opera and WQXR-FM. The program examines why individual arias have a lasting impact on audiences and how singers prepare to perform them. In 2019, Giddens released two studio albums: Songs of Our Native Daughters with Allison Russell, Leyla McCalla and Amythyst Kiah, and There Is No Other with Italian musician Francesco Turrisi.
In 2017 and 2018, Giddens appeared in the fifth and sixth seasons of the CMT's Nashville as Hannah Lee "Hallie" Jordan, a social worker with the voice of an angel. Hallie is a significant character in Juliette's storyline. To date, Giddens has appeared in 11 episodes and has performed several songs that have been made available following each episode.
Giddens is multiethnic in ancestry. Her father was European American and her mother African American and Native American. Her sister Lalenja Harrington is a director for Beyond Academics, a four-year certificate program supporting students with intellectual and developmental disabilities, at the University of North Carolina at Greensboro. A singer and songwriter herself, Harrington occasionally collaborates with her sister on musical projects.
Giddens married Irish musician Michael Laffan in 2007. They have a daughter and a son; however, they are now separated. She has homes in Greensboro, North Carolina; Nashville, Tennessee; and Limerick, Ireland.
Awards and nominationsEdit
|2010||Americana Music Awards||Duo/Group of the Year||Carolina Chocolate Drops||Nominated|
|2011||Grammy Awards||Best Traditional Folk Album||Genuine Negro Jig||Won|
|2012||Americana Music Awards||Duo/Group of the Year||Carolina Chocolate Drops||Nominated|
|2013||Grammy Awards||Best Folk Album||Leaving Eden||Nominated|
|2015||Americana Music Awards||Album of the Year||Tomorrow Is My Turn||Nominated|
|Artist of the Year||Rhiannon Giddens||Nominated|
|2016||Grammy Awards||Best Folk Album||Tomorrow Is My Turn||Nominated|
|International Folk Music Awards||Album of the Year||Tomorrow Is My Turn||Won|
|BBC Radio 2 Folk Awards||Folk Singer of the Year||Rhiannon Giddens||Won|
|Steve Martin Prize for Excellence in Banjo and Bluegrass||N/A||Rhiannon Giddens||Won|
|North Carolina Music Hall of Fame||Induction||Rhiannon Giddens and the Carolina Chocolate Drops||Won|
|2017||Grammy Awards||Best American Roots Performance||"Factory Girl"||Nominated|
|Best Folk Album||"Factory Girl"||Nominated|
|Living Blues Awards||Critics Poll Blues Artist of the Year (Female)||Rhiannon Giddens||Won|
|Americana Music Awards||Album of the Year||Freedom Highway||Nominated|
|Country Music Association Awards||Musical Event of the Year||Kill a Word (with Eric Church)||Nominated|
|2018||International Folk Music Awards||Album of the Year||Freedom Highway||Won|
|Songlines Music Awards||Americas||Freedom Highway||Won|
|Living Blues Awards||New Recordings (Traditional & Acoustic)||Freedom Highway||Won|
|2019||Americana Music Honors & Awards||Legacy of Americana||Rhiannon Giddens||Won|
|Duo/Group of the Year||Our Native Daughters||Pending|
|Artist of the Year||Rhiannon Giddens||Pending|
As Carolina Chocolate DropsEdit
|Title||Album details||Peak chart positions|
|US||US Grass||US Folk||US Heat|
|Dona Got a Ramblin' Mind||
|The Great Debaters Soundtrack
(with Alvin Youngblood Hart, Sharon Jones and Teenie Hodges)
|Carolina Chocolate Drops & Joe Thompson
(recorded live at MerleFest, April 25, 2008)
|Genuine Negro Jig||
|Carolina Chocolate Drops/Luminescent Orchestrii EP||
|"—" denotes releases that did not chart|
- Out On the Ocean: Music of the British Isles (2004)
- Northern Lights (2005)
As The New Basement TapesEdit
As Rhiannon GiddensEdit
- We Rise (EP) (2014)
- Tomorrow Is My Turn (2015)
- Factory Girl (EP) (2015)
- Live at Jazzfest 2016 (2016)
- Freedom Highway (2017)
- Live at Jazzfest 2017 (2017)
- There Is No Other with Francesco Turrisi (2019)
As Our Native DaughtersEdit
- As Sankofa Strings, Colored Aristocracy (2005)
- As Elftones & Rhiannon Giddens, All The Pretty Horses (2009)
- As Laurelyn Dossett, Rhiannon Giddens, Eric Robertson & Bennett Sullivan, The Music Of Beautiful Star (2009)
- As Eleganza, Because I Knew You... (2009)
- As Mike Compton, Laurelyn Dossett, Rhiannon Giddens, Joe Newberry, Jason Sypher,The Gathering (2011)
- As The Giddens Sisters, I Know I've Been Changed (2013)
See Nashville discography Seasons Five and Six for songs performed by Hallie Jordan (played by Rhiannon Giddens)
Other significant appearances (lead, duet, trio, featured solo)Edit
- "Dreamland" and "Clothes of My Man", Sonic New York (Sxip Shirey) (2010)
- "Brightest and Best", "Christ Child Lullaby", "A Babe is Born All of a Maid", and "Down in Yon Forest", The Winter Moon (Immigrant's Daughter) (2010)
- "Lay Your Money Down", Shamrock City (Solas) (2012)
- "Outside Man Blues", Yes We Can (An Apple A Day) (2013)
- "The Vanishing Race", Look Again to the Wind: Johnny Cash's Bitter Tears Revisited (Various Artists) (2014)
- "Now To Conclude Our Christmas Mirth", "Christmas Day Is Come", and "The Enniscorthy Christmas Carol", The Wexford Carols (Caitríona O'Leary album) (Caitríona O'Leary) (2014)
- "Waterboy", "'S iomadh rud tha dhìth orm / Ciamar a nì mi 'n dannsa dìreach", and "Didn't Leave Nobody But The Baby", Another Day, Another Time: Celebrating the Music of Inside Llewyn Davis (Various Artists) (concert recorded live September 29, 2013, album released January 2015)
- "Up In Arms", Rhythm & Reason (Bhi Bhiman) (2015)
- "Julie" and "Cluck Old Hen", Tunes from David Holt's State of Music (Various Artists) (2015)
- "Ballad of Lennon Lacy" (single) (Jon Lindsay with Rhiannon Giddens and NC Music Love Army) (2015)
- "Kill a Word", Mr. Misunderstood (Eric Church) (2015)
- "The Good Fight", Real Midnight (Birds of Chicago) (2016)
- "St. James Infirmary Blues", Sing Me Home (Yo-Yo Ma & The Silk Road Ensemble) (2016)
- "Manman", A Day for the Hunter, A Day for the Prey (Leyla McCalla) (2016)
- "Come Sunday" and "Rocks in My Bed", American Tunes (Allen Toussaint) (2016)
- "Woman of Constant Sorrow", "Just Drive By, Firefly", and "Bach, Stevie Wonder and Janelle Monae", A Bottle of Whiskey and a Handful of Bees (Sxip Shirey) (2017)
- "West End Blues (Live)" and "Shake Sugaree", Tunes from David Holt's State of Music 2 (Various Artists) (2017)
- "One Hour Mama" and "Pretty Saro", Music from The American Epic Sessions (Various Artists) (2017)
- "Factory Girl" and "Lullaby", Folk Songs (Kronos Quartet) (2017)
- "So Pretty", For Lenny (Lara Downes) (2018)
- "My Baby Likes Bacon" and "Mansell's Waltz", Hopes & Dreams: The Lullaby Project (Various Artists) (2018)
- "I'm Just Wild About Harry", "I Ain't Gonna Play No Second Fiddle", "Swing Along", and "I Ain't Got Nobody", American Originals: 1918 (Cincinnati Pops Orchestra) (2018)
- "Dream Variation", Holes In The Sky (Lara Downes) (2019)
- "The May Morning Dew", The Great Irish Songbook (Dervish (band)) (2019)
- "Moonlight", "Mountain Hymn", and "Mountain Banjo", The Music of Red Dead Redemption 2: Original Soundtrack (Various Artists) (2019)
- Tomlinson, Tommy (September 2, 2015). "Rhiannon Giddens & The Making of NC's Most Beautiful Voice". Our State Celebrating North Carolina. Retrieved 2017-08-14.
- Menconi, David (Spring 2011). "Creating Old-Time Music for the 21st Century". Oberlin Alumni Magazine. Retrieved 2013-01-21.
- "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2013-10-29. Retrieved 2013-10-28.CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
- "Just Around the Bend: Survival and Revival in Southern Banjo Sounds - Mike Seeger's Last Documentary". folkways.si.edu. Smithsonian Folkways. September 2019. Retrieved September 11, 2019.
- Wosahla, Steve (2008-04-30). "Carolina Chocolate Drops - Digging back, driving forward". No Depression. Retrieved 2017-04-02.
- Sullivan, John Jeremiah (2019-05-13). "Rhiannon Giddens and What Folk Music Means". New Yorker. Retrieved 2019-05-14.
- Epstein, Jon. "Sankofa Strings: | Features | Creative Loafing Charlotte". Clclt.com. Retrieved 2017-04-02.
- Pandolfi, Elizabeth. "Classical duo Eleganza mixes it up musically". Charleston City Paper. Retrieved 2017-04-10.
- "Carolina Chocolate Drops' Fan Bridge Newsletter". Fanbridge.com. Retrieved 2013-11-12.
- "Another Day, Another Time". IMDb.com. Retrieved 23 April 2014.
- Pareles, Jon (September 30, 2013). "Traditional Folk Frolic, With Old-Time Fervor and Youthful Yelps". The New York Times. Retrieved February 7, 2015.
- Rosen, Christopher. "5 Memorable Moments From The 'Inside Llewyn Davis' Concert, 'Another Day, Another Time'". The Huffington Post. Retrieved 2017-04-02.
- "nc music love army". nc music love army. Retrieved 2017-04-02.
- "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2013-12-10. Retrieved 2017-01-15.CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
- Grow, Kory (2014-03-25). "Elvis Costello, Marcus Mumford, Jim James Record 'Lost' Dylan Lyrics The project, 'Lost on the River: The New Basement Tapes,' will come out in the fall". Rolling Stone. Retrieved 2014-04-23.
- "Rhiannon Giddens, of Carolina Chocolate Drops, to Release Solo Debut Album "Tomorrow Is My Turn," Produced by T Bone Burnett, February 10". Nonesuch.com. November 19, 2014. Retrieved 2015-06-11.
- "Music review: Rhiannon Giddens in Resolute Voice". WSJ. 2015-02-10. Retrieved 2017-04-02.
- "Rhiannon Giddens discovers true calling with help from friends". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved 2017-04-02.
- "Rhiannon Giddens at Heinepark Stage 3 July 2015". TFF Rudolstadt. Retrieved 3 July 2015.
- "Rudolstadt-Festival – das größte Folk-Roots-Weltmusik-Festival Deutschlands - Rudolstadt-Festival 6. – 9. Juli 2017". Tff-rudolstadt.de. Retrieved 2017-04-02.
- Devores, Courtney (2015-08-07). "Charlotte songwriter 'obsessed' with teen death case". Charlotte Observer. Retrieved 2017-04-02.
- "Nonesuch to Release Rhiannon Giddens's EP "Factory Girl" for Black Friday Record Store Day, November 27 | Nonesuch Records". Nonesuch.com. Retrieved 2017-04-02.
- "Rhiannon Giddens Brings Diversity to Banjo Award". The New York Times. 12 September 2016. Retrieved 2017-04-02.
- "2016 INDUCTION CEREMONY : List of Inductees". Northcarolinamusichalloffame.org. Retrieved 2017-04-02.
- Gibbs, Ryan. "5 must-see acts at the 2017 Newport Jazz Festival". Newport Mercury. Retrieved 2017-08-14.
- "Video: Rhiannon Giddens' Keynote Addresss - IBMA Business Conference 2017". ibma.org. Retrieved 2017-10-12.
- "Rhiannon Giddens: Bluegrass in Black and White". bluegrasstoday.com. Retrieved 2017-09-27.
- "The Performers in 'The American Epic Sessions'". WTTW Chicago Public Media - Television and Interactive. 2017-06-06. Retrieved 2018-02-27.
- "Album review: Various Artists, American Epic: The Sessions (Columbia/Lo-Max)". HeraldScotland. Retrieved 2018-02-27.
- "Rhiannon Giddens - MacArthur Foundation". Macfound.org. Retrieved 2019-01-24.
- Keel, Eli. "Teddy Abrams' 'The Greatest' musically explores Ali in his own words and through the eyes of history". insiderlouisville.com. Retrieved 2018-04-27.
- Baker, Brian. "Review: 'American Originals' a Great Success". citybeat.com. Retrieved 2018-04-27.
- "Smithsonian Folkways Recordings 2018 Release Schedule". shorefire.com. Retrieved 2018-05-11.
- Stumpfl, Amy. "Nashville Ballet celebrates 'Big Ideas' and major milestones with 2018-19 season". www.tennessean.com. Retrieved 2018-03-07.
- "Rhiannon Giddens Selects Artists for Cambridge Folk Festival". nonesuch.com. 2018-03-04. Retrieved 2018-04-27.
- "Welcome to Aria Code with Rhiannon Giddens". www.wnycstudios.org. Retrieved 2018-11-15.
- Bernstein, Jonathan; Bernstein, Jonathan (21 February 2019). "How Our Native Daughters Reimagine Folk Song Narratives". Rolling Stone. Retrieved 4 May 2019.
- Betts, Stephen L.; Betts, Stephen L. (20 March 2019). "Rhiannon Giddens Details Collaborative New Album With Francesco Turrisi". Rolling Stone. Retrieved 4 May 2019.
- Betts, Stephen L. (2016-09-02). "Rhiannon Giddens to Join the Cast of 'Nashville'". Rolling Stone. Retrieved 2017-04-02.
- Gil de Rubio, Dave (2015-04-15). "Rhiannon Giddens Doesn't Need No Stinking Labels". Long Island Weekly. Retrieved 2016-05-12.
- "Rhiannon Giddens: Pure Folk-Music Fire From 'A Good-Ol' Mixed Race North Carolinian'". Indian Country Today. Retrieved 2018-05-12.
- Ian McDowell, Not just a Giddens sister: Lalenja Harrington sings out, educates and inspires, Yes! Weekly, April 24, 2018
- "Honeymoon Couple". Talitha Mackenzie. Archived from the original on 2016-03-02. Retrieved 2016-01-01.
- "Rhiannon Giddens & The Making of NC's Most Beautiful Voice". Our State. Retrieved 2016-01-01.
- "Blues star Rhiannon Giddens on her Irish ex and how Trump inspired action". Extra.ie. Retrieved 2018-10-22.
- Arthur, Dee Dee (June 8, 2011). "Rhiannon Giddens Laffan returns for a classical duet: Hitting the High Notes". Charleston City Paper. Retrieved 2015-06-11.
- Fricke, David (March 5, 2015). "Rhiannon Giddens' Old-Time Religion". Rolling Stone. Retrieved 2015-06-11.
- Hall, Erin (February 2014). "Country Girl: An Interview with the Carolina Chocolate Drops' Rhiannon Giddens". Antigravity. Retrieved 2015-06-11.
- Hildebrand, Lee (May 4, 2015). "Rhiannon Giddens brings a fresh voice to an old-time sound". SFgate. Retrieved 2015-06-11.
- Mechanic, Michael (October 4, 2010). "Rhiannon Giddens of the Carolina Chocolate Drops". Mother Jones. Retrieved 2015-06-11.
- Silver, Craig (April 15, 2015). "Rhiannon Giddens: Musical Melting Pot Wows America". Forbes. Retrieved 2015-06-11.
- Wald, Gayle (February 21, 2017). "Past Is Present". Oxford American. Retrieved 2017-08-03.
- Kaliss, Jeff (July 9, 2017). "Rhiannon Giddens Shares Her Musical Journey". San Francisco Classical Voice. Retrieved 2017-07-09.