Posted by: Dr. Grover B. Proctor, Jr. | 27 July 2017

Rhiannon Rides the Freedom Highway

Rhiannon GiddensIn less than two weeks (that would be August 9), extraordinary singer, string performer, composer, and musicologist Rhiannon Giddens will be performing at Raleigh’s Bryan Outdoor Theater at the North Carolina Museum of Art. The concert, part of her Freedom Highway Tour to promote her 2017 CD, will start at 8:00 pm, with doors opening at 6:30.

If you don’t have your tickets yet, for goodness sakes get on the ball! You’ll no doubt miss an extraordinary concert if you aren’t there.

Ms. Giddens is a Tar Heel — a native of Greensboro (“my identity is as a North Carolinian!”) — and an opera graduate of the Oberlin Conservatory. But as you can see in the concert and studio videos below, she has cast a much wider musical net. She can be heard moving seamlessly among ethnic music (“traditional” American, African-American, Native American, Celtic, Asian), as well as gospel, jazz, blues, and country.

Giddens was a co-founder of the critically acclaimed, Grammy-winning Carolina Chocolate Drops, a trio with an avowed mission “to lay claim to the African-American piece of the history of traditional American music.” Graduating into her solo career, she continues that mission, as can be heard most poignantly in the song she wrote called “Julie” (below), an imagined conversation between a female slave and her mistress as Yankee soldiers are approaching. It’ll send chills down your spine, and pierce your heart simultaneously.

I have put six of her video performances (18 minutes total) below, and I urge you to treat yourself. In the 2nd, 3rd, 4th, and 5th videos, Giddens plays an authentic 19th-century style, fretless banjo. It is just one of the many stringed instruments of which her playing is outstanding.

But it is perhaps her voice which most attracts her adoring fans. “Wayfaring Stranger” and “Julie” will bring a lump to your throat. And you won’t be able to deny a huge smile when she whoops flawlessly in “Ruby” and the traditional “Boatman Dance.” (She even makes the jaded Bill Murray shake his head in awe.) Several aspects of her near-flawless vocal control, not to mention the sheer beauty of her voice, will wow you in “Wayfaring Stranger” and “Nothin’ Else to Do.” And finally, how in the world does she (seemingly) take so few breaths in “Pretty Little Girl With the Red Dress On.” (I dare you to try and keep a dour face while listening to that one!)

Add it all up: Consummate musicianship, virtuosic chops on several instruments, a totally arresting voice, a great backing band, and songs running the emotional gamut that will send chills and bring tears and smiles. Enjoy! See you August 9!!

RUBY   (3:57)








JULIE  (3:47)





Freedom Highway

Rhiannon Giddens

Freedom Highway

Wednesday, August 9, 2017
8:00 PM
Doors Open at 6:30 PM

Joseph M. Bryan, Jr. Theater
North Carolina Museum of Art
For ticket information,



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