All around her, a lot of cacophony was going on: Music from Future, Tame Impala and Derobert & the Half-Truths swirled off and on through the breezeways of the Tito’s tent, as Rhiannon Giddens and her band, armed with banjos, acoustic guitars, cello and upright bass, pushed hard to rise above.
“Hopefully we can win, against whatever else is going on,” Giddens declared, just after finishing a magnificent cover of a Dolly Parton song with a fitting refrain for the occasion: “Don’t Let It Trouble Your Mind.”
No trouble at all for those in the crowd, who frequently clapped, sang, shouted and swayed along to the fascinatingly eclectic range of American (and beyond) roots music styles Giddens and her five bandmates served up. A Grammy winner with the Carolina Chocolate Drops, the North Carolina artist released her first solo album this year, proving fully capable of moving forward with her own personal vision.
It helps that she’s a spectacular singer. From numbers by Patsy Cline to Rosetta Tharpe to her own originals, her voice distinguished everything she touched, most especially a Scots-Gaelic number near the end of the set that was as invigorating as it was unintelligible. Maybe the best was “Duncan and Jimmy,” a Bob Dylan song she helped set to music for the recent “New Basement Tapes” project; in Giddens’ hands, it sounded like an instant new classic, worthy of the original album’s stature.