fri 19/04/2024

Albums of the Year 2023: Rhiannon Giddens - You’re the One | reviews, news & interviews

Albums of the Year 2023: Rhiannon Giddens - You’re the One

Albums of the Year 2023: Rhiannon Giddens - You’re the One

A musical seeker who rarely disappoints

You're the One: an album that keeps on giving

My CD player died some time ago, that is to say it sticks or skips whatever I do to clean it. Dismantling the fancy stack in which it sits and installing a replacement is a hassle, but even so it would once have been unthinkable that I could survive without a CD player. I still have a deck, and vinyl, and my computer has pretty good speakers.

Even so the fact that I’ve not replaced it must say something about my interest, or lack of, in new releases, though exploring on Spotify sometimes throws up something new and exciting. My heart is most readily won by singer-songwriters with a genuine gift for words and melody and a good voice, many of whom are now hanging up their guitars. (Obviously I’m not including James Blunt, whose appalling last offering it was my misfortune to review.)

Rhiannon Giddens is a terrific musician who rarely disappoints. Her ever-inquiring mind leads her in different and sometimes surprising directions and You’re the One, her third solo album and the first entirely self-composed, is wonderfully eclectic, running the gamut of genres and styles and never falling into cliched tropes. A rich musical gumbo, it doesn’t pall with repeated playings but only gives up more. The secret of a good album of course. The most surprising cut and the most “conventionally” beautiful is “Who Are You Dreaming Of”, co-written with Dirk Powell, another, multi-instrumentalis. It sounds as though it’s long been part of the Great American Songbook. The vocal is to die for. I’ve just read that Giddens has had throat surgery, so let’s wish her a speedy recovery.

Two More Essential Albums from 2023
Reg Meuross – Stolen from God
Lucinda Williams – Stories from a Rock ‘n’ Roll Heart

Musical Experience of the Year
“Experience” is a relative term – nothing compares to Bob Dylan in 1978 or Leonard Cohen in 2008 – but (leaving aside the highs from the events I co-produced at this year’s Village Trip festival in NYC!) I had severable memorable experiences this year: Suzanne Vega’s mesmerizing 40-year retrospective at the Southbank, just she and guitarist Gerry Leonard plus a guest spot from Sam Lee. Gretchen Peters, a superlative songwriter, bade a poignant farewell to the road at Cadogan Hall in May. And Dave Stewart’s hi-octane riffle through the Eurythmics songbook at the Palladium in November was a joy. But I guess the laurels go to The Transatlantic Sessions back in February at the Southbank Centre. The cream of Anglo-American music-making down the decades gave us the greatest of back-porch sessions, with none other than Eric Clapton dropping by for a few classics, plus a song from Boris Grebenshchikov, “Russia’s Bob Dylan”. All told, quite an evening.

Track of the Year
The Beatles – “Now and Then”

Liz Thomson's website

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