Freedom Highway - Rhiannon Giddens

from the album Freedom Highway (2017)

Pops Staples was an American musical treasure.  Born in Winona, Mississippi in 1914, he was drawn to - and began sitting in with - the great musicians of that region in the pre-depression years.  These artists included Robert Johnson, Charlie Patton, and Son House.

In 1935, he and his wife moved to Chicago where they performed in various gospel bands.  Ultimately, they broke away and formed The Staple Singers together with their son and three daughters.  One early hit record was 1955's This May Be The Last Time, which became more widely known when covered ten years later by the young Rolling Stones.

The music of Pops Staples provides that critical bridge between Gospel music and Rhythm & Blues.  A listen to Staples Singers songs like I'll Take You There and Respect Yourself are testaments to this linkage and the greatness of Pops Staples as a songwriter.

Freedom Highway is a song written by Pops Staples in 1965 at the height if the Civil Rights Movement.  Sometimes called "Soul Folk," his music of this era was unique in incorporating spiritual, social, and modern urban elements into something magical.

Fifty-plus years later, Freedom Highway has been covered by Rhiannon Giddens.  I dig this cover for its "delta groove meets New York City horns" vibe that is a departure from the original's rapturous handclaps.  This groove provides a fantastic foundation for Ms. Giddens to display her vocal talents.  Unlike her outstanding performances on Carolina Chocolate Drops and prior solo efforts, the addition of the groove draws me in at an entirely higher level.

It is heartwarming to see the music of Pops Staples living and inspiring through others.  I hope it continues for centuries.

Click Here to listen to Rhiannon Giddens rendition of Freedom Highway.

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