The Smithsonian Folkways-issued debut album from Carolina Chocolate Drops frontwoman Rhiannon Giddens, former Carolina Chocolate Drops cellist Leyla McCalla, multi-instrumentalist Allison Russell (Po' Girl, Birds of Chicago), and alt-country/blues singer/songwriter Amythyst Kiah, Songs of Our Native Daughters is a bold, brutal, and often beautiful dissertation on racism, hope, misogyny, agency, and slavery told from the perspective of four of modern roots music's most talented women, who also happen to be black. That all four artists are adept banjo players is no fluke, as that distinctly American instrument has been at the forefront of the country's musical evolution since the 1800s, though almost always via the hands of a white male. Looking to the past for inspiration, from Creole culture and minstrelsy to the abolitionist and suffrage movements, the quartet have constructed a set of songs that are grounded in centuries of suffering, yet resolute in their humanity. Steely and soulful opener "Black Myself," led by Kiah, is built off a line from Sid Hemphill's Alan Lomax recording of "John Henry" ("I don't like no red-black woman/black myself, black myself"). That mythic steel driver is invoked by Kiah again on the galloping bluegrass romp "Polly Ann's Hammer," which sees John's wife, who was every bit his equal when it came to swinging a maul, getting to tell her side of the story. Giddens turns an old minstrel instrumental song on its head with "Better Git Yer Learnin'," which eschews the lewdness and derogatory imagery of the style for an honest post-emancipation primer ("the white folks they will write the show/if you can't read you'll never know"). Most potent of all is Giddens' "Barbados," a wordless lament book ended by a pair of poems: the first, an anti-slavery piece by English poet William Cowper, and the second, a response by co-producer and frequent Giddens collaborator Dirk Powell that shows how little has changed. As harrowing as the material can be, it's the music that carries the weight. Echoes of mbaqanga and highlife find their way into "Moon Meets Sun" and "Music and Joy," both of which find solace in the simple pleasures of song and dance, and Russell's robust, gospel-tinged "You're Not Alone" uses motherhood as a metaphor for resilience, resistance, and acceptance, bringing to a close this powerful, personal, and much-needed retelling of American history.
Performance CreditsOur Native Daughters Primary Artist
Dirk Powell Acoustic Guitar,Banjo,Bass,Fiddle,Mandolin,Percussion,Piano,Accordion,Electric Guitar,Keyboards,Guitar (Electric Baritone)
Jason "Number One" Sypher Bass,Percussion,Bowed Bass
Allison Russell Banjo,Clarinet,Percussion,Vocals,Background Vocals,5-string Banjo
Jamie Dick Percussion,Drums
Rhiannon Giddens Banjo,Fiddle,Percussion,Vocals,Background Vocals,Hand Clapping
Leyla McCalla Guitar,Cello,Vocals,Background Vocals,Tenor Banjo
Amythyst Kiah Guitar,Percussion,Vocals,5-string Banjo
Technical CreditsBob Marley Composer
Dirk Powell Composer,Poetry,Producer,Engineer,Liner Notes,Annotation
Tom Briggs Composer
Huib Schippers Executive Producer
William Cowper Poetry
Allison Russell Composer,Annotation
Rhiannon Giddens Composer,Producer,Annotation
Leyla McCalla Composer,Annotation
Amythyst Kiah Composer,Annotation
John Smith Executive Producer
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
Songs of Our Native Daughters based on 0 ratings. 1 reviews.
This is not a light CD. Listen to the words. Let them sink into your bones and blood. Each of these songs come from the very marrow of the writers's soul. I have been a huge fan of Rhiannon Giddens since her Carolina Chocolate Drops days. I'll be checking out CDs by the other immensely talented women.