Rhiannon Giddens’ You’re the One is her third solo studio album and her first of all original songs. This collection of twelve tunes written over the course of her career bursts with life-affirming energy, drawing from the folk music she knows so deeply and its pop descendants. The album was produced by Jack Splash (Kendrick Lamar, Solange, Alicia Keys, Valerie June) and recorded with an ensemble including Giddens' closest musical collaborators from the past decade, a string section, and Miami Horns. The lone featured guest on the album is Jason Isbell on “Yet to Be.”
Rhiannon Giddens’ You’re the One was released August 18 on Nonesuch Records. The album is the Grammy- and MacArthur-winning singer, composer, and instrumentalist’s third solo studio album and her first of all original songs; her last solo album was 2017’s critically acclaimed Freedom Highway. This collection of twelve songs written over the course of Giddens’ career bursts with life-affirming energy, drawing from the folk music that she knows so deeply, as well as its pop descendants. The album was produced by Jack Splash (Kendrick Lamar, Solange, Alicia Keys, Valerie June, Tank and the Bangas) and recorded at Criteria Recording Studios in Miami with a band composed of Giddens’ closest musical collaborators from the past decade alongside musicians from Splash’s own Rolodex, topped off with a horn section, making an impressive ten-to-twelve-person ensemble.
The album's title track was inspired by a moment Giddens had with her son not long after he was born (he's now ten years old, and she has a fourteen-year-old daughter as well). You can watch the lyric video for it here:
"Your life has changed forever, and you don't know it until you're in the middle of it and it hits you," Giddens says. "I held his little cheek up to my face, and was just reminded, 'Oh my God, my children—they have every bit of my heart.'"
Giddens made You’re the One with some of her closest musical collaborators from the past decade, including her partner, Italian multi-instrumentalist Francesco Turrisi, plus multi-instrumentalist Dirk Powell, bassist Jason Sypher, and Congolese guitarist Niwel Tsumbu. The album features electric and upright bass, conga, Cajun and Piano accordions, guitars, a Western string section, and Miami horns, among other instruments, capturing the inclusive spirit that channels through all of her work.
"I hope that people just hear American music," Giddens says. "Blues, jazz, Cajun, country, gospel, and rock—it's all there. I like to be where it meets organically. They're fun songs, and I wanted them to have as much of a chance as they could to reach people who might dig them but don't know anything about what I do. If they're introduced to me through this record, they might go listen to other music I've made and make some new discoveries.”
You’re the One opens with "Too Little, Too Late, Too Bad," an R&B blast (complete with background "shoops" and horns) that takes a titan for inspiration. "I listened to a bunch of Aretha Franklin, and then turned to fellow Aretha-nut Dirk Powell and said, ‘Let’s write a song she might have sung!'" Giddens recalls. Her danceable, vivacious tribute to Franklin's sound is a vocal showcase, spotlighting her soaring high notes and nearly-growling low ones. Another highlight, "If You Don't Know How Sweet It Is," intentionally puts an edgier spin on the sass of Dolly Parton's early work.
One of the album's most powerful moments is "Another Wasted Life," inspired by the tragic story of Kalief Browder, who was incarcerated on Rikers Island for three years without trial. The lone featured guest on the album is Jason Isbell on “Yet to Be,” the story of a Black woman and an Irish man falling in love in America.
As Pitchfork once said, “few artists are so fearless and so ravenous in their exploration”—a journey that has led to NPR naming her one of its 25 Most Influential Women Musicians of the 21st Century and to American Songwriter calling her “one of the most important musical minds currently walking the planet.” Giddens’ previous album They're Calling Me Home won the Grammy Award for Best Folk Album in 2022, making her a two-time winner and eight-time nominee. In the past two years Giddens has also debuted her opera, Omar, written with film composer Michael Abels (Get Out, Nope), which won the 2023 Pulitzer Prize in Music; had her PBS’ Great Performances debut with the Nashville Ballet in Black Lucy and the Bard, which she composed and performed the music for with Francesco Turrisi; and released a children's book inspired by a song she wrote for Juneteenth called Build a House. She is also the creative director of the Silkroad Ensemble, is this year’s musical director of the Ojai Festival, created a 10-part video series about the banjo on Wondrium, and is hosting a new series on PBS this summer called My Music. Giddens has collaborated with Yo-Yo Ma, Elvis Costello and Daniel Lanois, appeared on the Kennedy Center Awards for Joan Baez, and has been featured on CBS Sunday Morning, Jimmy Kimmel Live!, the Late Show with Stephen Colbert, the Tonight Show with Jimmy Fallon, CBS Saturday Morning, and the recent Grammy Salute to Paul Simon on CBS.
Produced by Jack Splash
Recorded November 14-19, 2022 at The Hit Factory Criteria Miami, FL
Engineered by Ian Mercel & Jack Splash
Assistant Engineering by Andrew Selchow
Mixed by Kennie Takahashi
Mastered by Greg Calbi & Steve Fallone at Sterling Sound, Edgewater, NJ
Additional vocals on “Too Little, Too Late, Too Bad,” “Hen in the Foxhouse,” “You’re the One,” and “You Louisiana Man” recorded by Ben Rawlins at the World Academy of Music and Dance, University of Limerick in Limerick, Ireland; additional vocals on “Too Little, Too Late, Too Bad,” “You Louisiana Man,” and “If You Don’t Know How Sweet It Is” recorded by Jack Splash at Fresh Young Minds Studios in Los Angeles, CA; cello for “You’re the One” recorded by Dan Deckelman at Sound of Music Studios in Richmond, VA; additional vocals for “Yet to Be” recorded by Grant Wilson at Sound Emporium in Nashville, TN; additional vocals for “Way Over Yonder” recorded by Justin Harrington at Studio 176 in Greensboro, NC.
All strings recorded by Lawrence Mitchell at Royal Studios Memphis, TN.
String arrangements on “Wrong Kind of Right,” “Who Are You Dreaming Of,” “You’re the One,” “If You Don’t Know How Sweet It Is” by Lester Snell
Horn and Flute arrangements on “Too Little, Too Late, Too Bad,” “Wrong Kind of Right,” “Another Wasted Life,” “You Louisiana Man,” “You Put the Sugar in My Bowl,” “Yet to Be,” and “Who Are You Dreaming Of” by Jack Splash
Photography by Ebru Yildiz
Design by Jeri Heiden for SMOG Design, Inc.
Executive Producers: David Bither and Alex Kadvan
Rhiannon Giddens, minstrel banjo, modern banjo, viola, vocals
Dwayne Bennett, Hammond B3, additional keys
Eric Escanes, electric guitar
Terrence “Teajai” Grizzle Jr., drums
Humberto Ibarra, percussion
Eryn Allen Kane, background vocals
Tadarius “T Ray” McCombs, electric bass
Dirk Powell, accordion, piano, fiddle, guitar
Niwel Tsumbu, nylon-stringed guitar
Francesco Turrisi, piano, tamburello, piano accordion, frame drum
Jack Splash, percussion, guitar, drum programming, Rhodes, Wurlitzer
Jason Sypher, upright bass
Jason Isbell, vocals (3)
Lalenja Harrington, background vocals (11)
Leyla McCalla, cello (2)
Amelia Powell, triangle (11), background vocals (11)
Gene Sxip Shirey, National Reso-Phonic guitar (8)
Jennifer Puckett, violin (2, 4, 7, 9)
Yennifer Correia, violin (2, 4, 7, 9)
Andy Yum, violin (2, 4, 7, 9)
Beth Luscome, viola (2, 4, 7, 9)
Aaron Tubergen, viola (2, 4, 7, 9)
Jonathan Kirkscey, cello (2, 4, 7, 9)
Ted Zimmerman, trumpet (1, 3, 4-6, 9, 10)
Scott Klarman, saxophone, flute (1, 3, 4-6, 9, 10)
Jose Miranda, trombone (1, 3, 4-6, 9, 10)