The Weekend Australian - Review - - Music Reviews - Tony Hil­lier

Free­dom High­way Rhi­an­non Gid­dens None­such/Warner The solo ca­reer of Rhi­an­non Gid­dens, late of the Carolina Choco­late Drops, takes an­other step for­ward with Free­dom High­way. Whereas 2015’s well-re­ceived To­mor­row is My Turn in­cluded only one orig­i­nal, all but three tracks on the singer’s sec­ond re­lease are self or co-com­posed. Sug­gest­ing that the high­lights of a the­matic set pred­i­cated on African-Amer­i­can his­tory are the cover songs casts no as­per­sions on the qual­ity of Gid­dens’ writ­ing, since the num­bers in ques­tion are out­stand­ing ren­di­tions of clas­sics forged dur­ing the fer­vour of the civil rights cam­paign. An ex­pan­sive take of the ti­tle track cap­tures the heart, pas­sion and clam­our of a Sta­ple Singers’ an­them sparked by the event­ful mid-1960s free­dom march from Selma to Mont­gomery. Gid­dens’ ren­di­tion of Richard Fa­rina’s Birm­ing­ham Sun­day, in which the late-great song­writer noted, “the choirs kept singing of free­dom”, is equally soul­ful and mov­ing. The singer’s bluesy orig­i­nal At the Pur­chaser’s Op­tion with its stir­ringly de­fi­ant cho­rus (“You can take my body, you can take my bones / You can take my blood, but not my soul”) com­pares favourably with the gui­tar-fin­ger­picked cover of Mis­sis­sippi John Hurt’s The An­gels Laid Him Away. An­other of Gid­dens’ ex­cel­lent songs, Julie, works well with banjo and fid­dle. Tasty brass stabs, elec­tric gui­tar breaks and fills and a sub­dued rap add mod­ern res­o­nance to Bet­ter Get It Right the First Time — a re­minder that the streets of black Amer­ica still burn. Baby Boy fin­ishes with an im­pres­sive vo­cal round and three-part fe­male har­mony.

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