Alice Randall taps Rhiannon Giddens for Black Country music history lesson, new song out now External

Article Contributed by Shore Fire Media | Published on Wednesday, February 21, 2024

Today, Oh Boy Records unveils Rhiannon Giddens’ stirring rendition of "The Ballad of Sally Anne,” the second track from My Black Country: The Songs of Alice Randall. The track delves into the harrowing reality of lynching in the American South, presenting a poignant narrative that challenges listeners to confront the historical atrocities often overlooked in the country music genre. My Black Country is Randall’s reclamation of the history of Black contributions to the genre, specifically hers. The LP is a collection of Randall’s most beloved songs as interpreted by some of the strongest Black female voices in modern country, roots and folk music including Giddens, Saaneah, Valerie June, Miko Marks, Leyla McCalla, Rissi Palmer, Allison Russell, Sistastrings, Adia Victoria, Sunny War, and Alice’s daughter Caroline Randall Williams.

Randall's powerful lyrics in "The Ballad of Sally Anne" illuminate the brutality of this dark chapter in American history, employing the conventions of the country music genre to confront anti-Black terror head-on. The track masterfully intertwines themes of love, loss, and resistance, offering a haunting portrayal of the aftermath of lynching and the enduring pain it inflicts on communities. In this reimagined version, Giddens embodies the spirit of Sally Anne with haunting authenticity, elevating the song to new heights of emotional resonance.

Listen to Rhiannon Giddens’ "The Ballad of Sally Anne" here

The album release will coincide with Alice’s book, also titled My Black Country, scheduled to hit the shelves just ahead of the album via Simon and Schuster on April 9. In 2020, Alice decided to start writing the book to honor the pioneering figures of Black Country and to chronicle her four-decade journey on Music Row with the intention to pay homage to the genre's overlooked history. After discussions with Rhiannon Giddens and Allison Russell, the project evolved into a collaborative effort with a group of Black female artists re-recording Randall's impactful songs, and releasing an LP to accompany the book. Led by producer Ebonie Smith whose credits include Hamilton, Cardi B’s Invasion of Privacy, Janelle Monae’s Dirty Computer, Sturgill Simpson’s A Sailor’s Guide to Earth and more, the album boasts a stellar lineup of featured artists: Rhiannon Giddens, Adia Victoria, Allison Russel, Valerie June, Leyla McCalla, Caroline Randall Williams (Alice’s daughter), SistaStrings, Miko Marks, Sunny War, Saaneah, and Rissi Palmer. My Black Country is more than an album; it's a celebration of overlooked history and a tribute to the essence of Country—a unique blend of Celtic, African influences, and evangelical Christianity.

Alice was adamant about partnering with a label that aligned with their vision—enter Oh Boy Records. Founded by John Prine, whose music sustained Alice in her darkest hours, Oh Boy represented more than recognition. Fiona Prine, a powerful ally, understood the importance of reclaiming Alice's envisioned Black narratives.

My Black Country Tracklist:

Small Towns - Leyla McCalla

Girls Ride Horses Too - Sistastrings

Went for a Ride - Adia Victoria

The Ballad of Sally Anne - Rhiannon Giddens

Solitary Hero - Sunny War

I’ll Cry for Yours - Miko Marks

Many Mansions - Allison Russell

Get the Hell Outta Dodge - Saaneah

Who’s Minding the Garden - Rissi Palmer

Big Dream - Valerie June

XXX’s And OOO’s (An American Girl) - Caroline Randall Williams

About Alice Randall:

Alice Randall, a distinguished professor, songwriter, and author with a “lively, engaging, and often wise” (The New York Times Book Review) voice, stands as a trailblazer in Nashville, making her mark as one of the few Black Country songwriters in the city. Her notable contributions extend to legendary artists like Trisha Yearwood and Johnny Cash. Drawing inspiration from the first family of Black country music, including DeFord Bailey, Lil Hardin, Ray Charles, Charley Pride, and Herb Jeffries, Randall finds solace in their history. My Black Country emerges as a celebration of the quintessentially American music genre, highlighting the profound influence of Black culture on the country.