November 1st, 2013


Title: I Know I’ve Been Changed

Artist: The Giddens Sisters

Label: Music Maker Relief Foundation

Format: CD

Release date: April 30, 2013



North Carolina’s Music Maker Relief Foundation’s mission is to preserve the musical traditions of the South by supporting the musicians who make it, and their limited edition CDs help achieve these goals. The Giddens Sisters recently contributed to this effort by releasing a CD through the Foundation.

I Know Ive Been Changed opens with the title track, a powerful a cappella gospel song allowing the lesser known sister, Lalenja, to lead the show, which she does with tremendous power and taste. Rhiannon (the better known Grammy winning sister, and founding member of The Carolina Chocolate Drops) supplies strong harmonies and the two sound wonderful together, one low register, one high, perfectly matched and complimentary. Sibling singers are common in vernacular forms of music like bluegrass, gospel, and country, and whether or not the power of these two voices comes from a familiar bond or not, the result is beautiful. Their strong a cappella duets include “That I Should Know Your Face,” “One More Day,” “Another Man Done Gone,” and one of the stand-out tracks of the album, “I’m a Soldier of the Lord.”

This great sibling singing, however, only comprises slightly more than a third of the tracks on the record. The other two thirds are split between the sisters’ solo efforts. The stronger portion is Rhiannon’s Appalachian contributions, like those found on Chocolate Drop records, including “I Wish I Was a Single Girl Again,” “Going to Write Me a Letter,” “Cripple Creek,” and the remarkable “Do You Remember.”

The weakest third of I Know Ive Been Changed are Lalenja’s SLAM poetry tracks, which break up the energy, and bring a pretentious weight to a record where vocal duets have already supplied plenty of heft. The poems include “When Billie Sings,” “Mamma,” “Michelin Man,” and the song/poem “Pretty Bird/Sethe’s Song.” The problem isn’t really the poems themselves, but the placement, as they serve to make you want to skips tracks more than dig in. Perhaps in the age of downloads and iTunes this isn’t a concern, but sequencing is still important in this reviewer’s ears.

Lalenja should not be dismissed as a writer though. “Andi’s Song,” also a Lalenja original, is a wonderful tune about female strife and resilience that capitalizes on the duet strength of the two sisters’ voices. The strength of tunes like this make one wish the whole record contained such beauty, unforced emotion, and grace.

Reviewed by Thomas Grant Richardson

Review Genre(s): Gospel Music and Spirituals


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