As a fellow native of Greensboro, North Carolina, Rhiannon Giddens immediately grasped my attention. Giddens’ captivating music is filled with incredible depth and intensity, with songs that transport listeners to other times.
For NPR’s Tiny Desk Concert, the folks and blues artist performed four songs, the majority being from her recent album, There Is No Other.
She leads with “Ten Thousand Voices,” which was influenced by her reading about the sub-Saharan slave trade. Drawing from history again with her follow-up, Giddens revealed that “At the Purchaser’s Option” was inspired by the American slave trade, where a late 1700s newspaper ad listed a woman “for sale,” along with her nine-month-old baby, who was “at the purchaser’s option.” She channeled her thoughts about the young woman and her child’s life with great emotional magnitude. “Take my body, you can take my bones. Take my blood, but not my soul,” sings Giddens.
For Giddens’ third tune, “I’m On My Way,” she introduces us to her 1858 banjo. “I found a way to access my ancestors with this instrument, and to write new music with it,” she says.
Ending with the powerful gospel song “He Will See You Through,” she focuses on the beauty, and all that is greater than ourselves. “You can call it whatever you want, ‘Gravity,’ ‘God,’ whatever. There’s a force that I believe in, and that’s what I focus on.”