Rhiannon Giddens – Freedom Highway

Giddens fades in her cover of The Staple Singers' Freedom Highway, a clever acknowledgement that this music of resistance has been playing for decades. But her storytelling sweeps back much further than the Civil Rights Movement. At The Purchaser’s Option balances on a clause that allowed masters to buy or refuse their slaves’ newborn babies. Julie and Come Love Come are originals set during the American Civil War. But then Better Get It Right The First Time drops the listener right back in the present, playing like a Curtis Mayfield take on #BlackLivesMatter. Giddens plies soul, R&B and hip-hop as easily as she does old-time music, blues, gospel and jazz. The cohesion across settings and styles is a testament to both her characters’ resilience and the skills of Giddens and co-producer Dirk Powell. A vital album for an anxious era.