Freedom Highway, Rhiannon Giddens' follow-up to her highly praised solo debut album, Tomorrow Is My Turn, is out now. It's a "rich collection," says NPR. "[H]ope comes back to life in Giddens' music." Pitchfork exclaims: "Rhiannon Giddens emerges as a peerless and powerful voice in roots music on her second solo album." The AP calls it "a rich tapestry with threads of blues, folk, gospel, soul, country and jazz ... rootsy and relevant, delivered with crystal-clear emotion and understated musical skill." Uncut names this "remarkably wise and timely new album" its Album of the Month. It earns four stars in American Songwriter, Irish Times ("a record for and of our times"), Observer, and Guardian, which calls it a "powerful and timely set."
Freedom Highway, Grammy Award–winner and 2017 Grammy nominee Rhiannon Giddens' follow-up to her highly praised debut album Tomorrow Is My Turn, is out today on Nonesuch Records. The record includes nine original songs Giddens wrote or co-wrote while she and her band toured after Tomorrow Is My Turn's 2015 release, along with a traditional song and two civil rights-era songs, "Birmingham Sunday" and Staple Singers' well-known "Freedom Highway," from which the album takes its name. Tickets for Giddens and the band's spring tour are on sale now.
To pick up a copy of Freedom Highway, head to iTunes, Amazon, Rhiannon Giddens's shop, or the Nonesuch Store, where it is available on CD, LP, MP3, FLAC, and HD digital. You can also listen to the album on Spotify and Apple Music.
Giddens co-produced Freedom Highway with multi-instrumentalist Dirk Powell in his Breaux Bridge, Louisiana studio, with the bulk of recording done in wooden rooms built prior to the Civil War. Together they assembled the players, which included her superb touring band, local musicians from the bayou, a soulful horn section from New York, and talented family members. The principle recording was done over an intense eight day period. The result is an album that is rawer and more personal than its predecessor.
It's a "rich collection, the latest chapter in the 40-year-old master folklorist, banjo virtuoso and vocal powerhouse's epic retelling of our history with its sins and sorrows—and joy born of resilience—fully reinstated," says NPR's Ann Powers. "[H]ope comes back to life in Giddens' music."
Pitchfork exclaims: "Rhiannon Giddens emerges as a peerless and powerful voice in roots music on her second solo album, a record that traces the power of African-American song from 200 years ago to today." "The album’s beauty and gravitas come from how Giddens collapses the last two centuries of American history," writes Pitchfork's Jonathan Bernstein. "[S]he arrives at Freedom Highway with her most expansive and adventurous musical palette yet ... As a songwriter, Giddens achieves immediacy by imbuing her stories with striking interpersonal drama and emotional depth." Bernstein concludes: "Here is timeless, striking proof that what was once worth protesting in song 200 years ago remains every bit as vital today."
"Rhiannon Giddens mines the pain and beauty of American social and musical history on Freedom Highway, a rich tapestry with threads of blues, folk, gospel, soul, country and jazz," says Associated Press reviewer Jill Lawless. "Giddens’ second solo album is rootsy and relevant, delivered with crystal-clear emotion and understated musical skill." You can read the review at washingtonpost.com.
The Wall Street Journal's Barry Mazor concludes: "Detailed, strongly conceived and powerful in its music, singing and songs, Rhiannon Giddens’s Freedom Highway will get to you, and stick with you."
In the UK, Uncut has made Freedom Highway its Album of the Month. "Giddens collides the past and the present on her remarkably wise and timely new album," writes Stephen Deusner in his review. "Freedom Highway is full of songs which were written over the past few years but sound like they've been lurking around the American subconscious for centuries, passed along by oral tradition or via song collectors and academics until they found their way to this particular singer, to this particular album, to this particular moment in history."
MOJO has named Freedom Highway Album of the Week, as has the Sunday Times of London. "So much for that 'difficult second album' challenge," says Times music critic Clive Davis. "If the roots singer/banjo player’s 2015 solo debut was a breathtaking showcase for her ability to channel one strain of Americana after another, from Nina Simone to Patsy Cline, then Freedom Highway finds her writing and singing more in her own voice."
"Rhiannon Giddens is a folk revivalist who knows that old stories can still have a powerful and painful relevance," writes the Guardian's Robin Denselow in a four-star review. "Her last album was an adventurous covers set, but here she matches her own powerful compositions based on vivid, true stories from the slavery era against classic blues, and civil rights songs from the 60s ... [A] powerful and timely set." His colleague at the Observer, Neil Spencer, echoes that sentiment in his four-star review, calling it a " timely, arresting album."
Back in the US, American Songwriter gives the album four stars as well. "The title track, a popular—even historic—Staples Singers classic, captures the theme of the Civil Rights Movement in America with the same sense of pride and determination that Giddens displays on every selection of her sophomore solo release," writes American Songwriter's Hal Horowitz. The album is a "terrific, moving and occasionally emotionally intense examination of the black experience in America, leaving it on a hopeful note."
"Rhiannon Giddens has been turning heads with her talent—and opening hearts and minds with her vibrant storytelling—for several years," says Canada's Exclaim!, which gives it a nine rating. "On Freedom Highway, Giddens juxtaposes historical narratives with present-day contexts for an emotionally powerful record ... Freedom Highway is a well-rounded and thoughtful amalgam of personal and political themes—the best kind of folk music."
In France, the album is lead review in this week’s issue of the leading weekly magazine Télérama and gets the rare top ffff-rating. The Irish Times gives it four stars: "A record for and of our times."
There's another four-star review in Slant magazine. "[F]or those willing to see these songs as calls to action, the album is nothing short of inspiring," writes reviewer Josh Hurst. "In fact, the album is alive with energy and playfulness; after all, these musicians understand how uplift and tragedy are inextricably comingled on the spirituals that have influenced their work ... Giddens suggests that hope begins when we affirm ourselves in these stories—and when we look to our past with equal parts sobriety and resolve."