Giddens tells stories with musical freshness
“Tomorrow Is My Turn” – Rhiannon Giddens –
Nonesuch Records

Greensboro, NDukeorth Carolina native Giddens made quite a mark for herself as a lead-singer, violinist and banjo player with Carolina Chocolate Drops. Now as a solo artist, Giddens has a brand new palette to paint musical paintings of American life through her own eyes as a Black woman from the south, whose eyes and ears on her debut solo outing have obviously seen and heard much.
Veteran producer T-Bone Burnett makes beautiful choices of musical blueprints as he weaves a potpourri of sounds and instrumentation that perfectly compliment Giddens’ talents and artistic vision.
Giddens opens the album with her take on Mississippi legend Geeshie Wiley’s classic Rhiannon Giddens album cover“Last Kind Words.” The mandolin-driven haunting blues prayer echos Robert Johnson with gorgeous vocal phrasing and a unique arrangement. Her cover of Dolly Parton’s “Don’t Let It-comedic vibrato that Parton was known for.
The rockabilly-take on Sister Rosetta Tharpe’s “Up Above My Head” has a warm ambience fueled by vocal harmonies that sound heavenly with an angelic violin solo.
On the Giddens-penned “Angel City,” she sings “When I came to Angel City, I was on the run, Blinded by own pity, I was nearly done.” Her voice carried by a gentle acoustic guitar sounds beaten and triumphant all at once.
The classic “Waterboy” by Jacques Wolfe, about a Black prison is done this time with a real country twang with a unique singing style that meshes both Mahalia Jackson and Patsy Cline at the same time.
The album’s single, the classic traditional “Black Is The Color”, a Scottish folk song covered by everyone from Burl Ives to Nina Simone is beautifully rendered by Giddens with a funky backdrop and fretless bass, which soon give way to a Dixieland combo lead by of all axes, a mouth organ.
Giddens brings a much-needed musical freshness to the industry, with stories to tell as well.
Rating – 7 1\2/10

KRS One spotlights Materialism, racism and politics
“Now Hear This” – KRS-One –
Killahpride Records

“The Blastmaster” returns with another solo masterpiece (a dozen deep since disbanding BDP) and again takes no prisoners as he continues to assert himself as “The God Of Hip-Hop”(Chuck D’s words, not mine).
With production from a slew of beat-makers, including BPD alumni Mad Lion, the hardest and most righteous beats on this set however belong to DJ Predator Prime a.k.a. his son Kris Parker.
KRS comes out swinging on the title track/intro, “You got it twisted homie, we not equal, I’m the whole motion picture, you the preview.”
Over the hardcore beat of “Duty” he proclaims, “I don’t write songs for cash, I write songs that last.”
KRS explores subject matter all over the map, such as materialism on “You A Millionaire”, racism on “American Flag”, political corruption on “This Is All We Got” KRS-One album coverand colonialism on the reggae-fuelled “Invaders.”
The Blastmaster questions the “American Dream” on “It’s All Insane To Me” where he spits’ That’s where I realized they got us like fools, where the prisons are more maintained than the schools,” like a thief in the night, I’m on the run, I drop jewels, they give rappers 40 acres and treat us like mules.”
He even attempts to save the soul of America on “From The Beginning Again” where in his manifesto he declares: “Let’s start America over right now, let’s start America over, here’s how, first we’re gonna start with all new features, we’re gonna raise the salaries of all school teachers.”
KRS-One has always been at the forefront of socially conscious hip-hop, along with Public Enemy, X-Can, De La Soul, Queen Latifah, Mos Def, Talib Kweli and Brand Nubian to name a few. But also had the skills and intelligent rhymes to sound dope as well!!! Another gem from a gem!
Rating – 9/10