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Rhiannon Giddens On Mountain Stage

Rhiannon Giddens.
Rhiannon Giddens.

Updated April 29, 2021 at 1:28 PM ET

As pioneers of American roots music age and pass away, it is perennially asked: "who's going to fill their shoes?" as the late George Jones mournfully sang in 1985. For old-time music fans, that question of who would carry on the tradition was answered when The Carolina Chocolate Drops emerged in 2005.

Straight out of North Carolina, the members of the talent-laden Grammy-winning group decided to go their separate ways in 2013 after releasing their fourth studio album, Leaving Eden. After the group's split, all ears were on the classically-trained, multi-instrumentalist Rhiannon Giddens, who was free to fly in any and all musical directions.

In 2015, Giddens returned to Mountain Stage (on her own for the first time) where she and her band unleashed a sizzling new set from her first solo album, Tomorrow Is My Turn. The concert was fittingly recorded at the eclectic American folk-life gathering Augusta Heritage Festival on the campus of Davis & Elkins College in Elkins, W.Va.

From the first notes of Dolly Parton's 1969 gem "Don't Let it Trouble Your Mind," Giddens' pop-tumbled operatic voice flowed over a jugband bed of cello, percussion and guitar, churning up a kinetic energy of joy and rediscovery for fans with an "O Sister Here Art Thou" attitude.

Giddens plowed straight ahead with cello burning into a sultry jazz-club rendition of Patsy Cline's "She's Got You."

After a sultry jazz-club rendition of Patsy Cline's "She's Got You," Giddens and her all-star band (featuring several Drops' alums) took off on a triple shot of traditional tunes that showcased her uncanny vocal depth, effortlessly shifting from Odetta's blues arrangement of "Waterboy'' to a haunting Celtic dive into the hurting pools of "Oh Love is Teasin'" via the late, great, classically-trained folk balladeer Jean Ritchie.

Ultimately, this sets' train was righteously bound for rock 'n' roll soul gospel glory with a show-ending sing-a-long medley of "Lonesome Road/Up Above My Head," originally by rock and roll pioneer Rosetta Tharpe. But first, the band rightfully got eight kinds of Saturday Night funky on the way to the church. With the intoxicating rhythms of percussionist Jamie Dick and double bassist Jason Sypher egging him on, Malcolm Parsons put his cello away and laid all his burdens down into an transcendent melodica solo that breathed a new wild and blue story into the well-worn traditional, "Black Is The Color."

Copyright 2021 West Virginia Public Broadcasting. To see more, visit West Virginia Public Broadcasting.

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