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 in Miami with a ten- to twelve-person ensemble including Giddens’ closest musical collaborators from the past decade and a horn section. The lone featured guest on the album is Jason Isbell on “Yet to Be.”
Rhiannon Giddens’ You’re the One will be 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.