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The essential Rhiannon Giddens: 5 songs to know from the ‘Genius Grant’ winner

Rhiannon Giddens performs a capella at a Raleigh house concert

Musician Rhiannon Giddens sings a capella during a performance at a house concert in Raleigh Friday, Oct. 6, 2017 in Raleigh.
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Musician Rhiannon Giddens sings a capella during a performance at a house concert in Raleigh Friday, Oct. 6, 2017 in Raleigh.

Award-winning singer and Greensboro native Rhiannon Giddens is coming home to perform – her first concert scheduled in the Triangle since she won a MacArthur Foundation “Genius Grant.”

The show will be April 14 with a full band at Raleigh’s Memorial Auditorium, with tickets priced at $30-$45 (plus tax and service charges). A pre-sale begins Oct. 25 for PineCone members and Broadway Series South subscribers, and the public on-sale date is Nov. 1.

The show follows an impressive run capped by last week’s announcement that Giddens had won a MacArthur Fellowship worth $625,000. She also delivered a widely acclaimed keynote speech at September’s International Bluegrass Music Association convention, after winning last year’s Steve Martin Prize for Excellence in Banjo and Bluegrass.

American musician Rhiannon Giddens, formerly of the Carolina Chocolate Drops, delivered a powerful keynote speech at the Raleigh Convention Center to kick off IBMA's World of Bluegrass on Tuesday Sept. 26, 2017. She declared that the question toda

It wouldn’t be surprising if Giddens picks up another Grammy Award by the time she gets here in April, for her latest album, “Freedom Highway.”

Rhiannon Giddens and guitar player Dirk Powell perform a fiddle tune at a house concert Friday, Oct. 6, 2017 in Raleigh.

But let’s not get ahead of ourselves.

Among the many great performances she’s been responsible for over the past decade of so, a handful stand out as worth revisiting.

Consider this your essential Rhiannon Giddens playlist – for now.

“Hit ’Em Up Style” (2010) – The song, a No. 2 hit for R&B singer Blu Cantrell in 2001, is a sly ode to retail therapy. Giddens sang it with the Carolina Chocolate Drops on their 2010 album “Genuine Negro Jig,” in an arrangement featuring fiddle, banjo, beatbox and incandescent lead vocal. It helped “Jig” win the Grammy Award for best traditional folk album.

“String of Pearls” (2011) – Greensboro singer/songwriter Laurelyn Dossett enlisted Giddens to sing “String of Pearls” as part of her holiday-season song cycle “The Gathering,” and it fits the classical inclinations of her voice perfectly. “The Gathering” premiered in 2011 with the North Carolina Symphony.

“Country Girl” (2012) – A highlight of the Chocolate Drops’ Grammy-nominated album “Leaving Eden,” “Country Girl” qualifies as a statement of purpose for Giddens. As she sings, no matter where she travels, “I am a country girl/I’ve been around the world/And every place I’ve been/Ain’t quite nothin’ like/Livin’ in the South…”

“Don’t Let It Trouble Your Mind” (2015) – Giddens’ first solo album ranged well beyond the Chocolate Drops’ stringband folk-blues, and some of its most impressive songs are straight-up country. That especially goes for this cover of a 1969 Dolly Parton tune, rendered in a key of defiance.

“Julie” (2017) – Based on a 19th-century slave narrative, “Julie” appears on “Freedom Highway.” It tells a shattering tale that Giddens seems to inhabit as she performs it, giving voice and sympathy to both characters. Stunning.

Rhiannon Giddens and guitar player Dirk Powell perform a fiddle tune at a house concert Friday, Oct. 6, 2017 in Raleigh.

David Menconi: 919-829-4759, @NCDavidMenconi

Details

For ticket information, go to dukeenergycenterraleigh.com or PineCone.org.

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