The seventh dotmatrix project brought together two greensboro songwriters, historians, and musicians. Yet both ladies, accomplished musicians in well-known bands across the Carolinas and beyond kept reminding the audience to be kind: This solo performance was a first for both.
Riannon Giddens is a world-traveling musician with the black string preservation band, The Carolina Chocolate Drops. The project was one of her first solo debuts, relying only occasionally on the support of Laurelyn Dossett and guitarist Scott Manring. Her roots music included a few original tunes, such as the ballsy-blues girl ballad, “Two-time Loser.” And with her early vocal training at the prestigious Oberlin Conservatory, Rhiannon performed a multi-lingual, multi-cultural act, singing in languages known only in the Gaelic-Scottish regions, plus “Mal Hombre” in Spanish, and “Slaves Lament.” A regularly touring musician, Rhiannon made the most of the hometown gig, and brought her sister on stage for gospel songs that featured harmonies only possible from a childhood spent singing together. Off her usual repertoire, however, Rhiannon dropped in a tune she’s always wanted to sing, she said, Patsy Cline’s, “I Fall to Pieces.”
Laurelyn Dossett also made a break from her regular appearances with Polecat Creek, and sang songs she’s written for the band, and more recently, songs she’s created for the original “playsical” projects at Triad Stage, such as “Brother Wolf” and “Bloody Blackbeard.” While Dossett played solo, she played many songs originally written for the bluegrass and Old Time string, such as “Midway Road” and “The Island,” off the band’s new album “Ordinary Seasons.” With a story behind every tune, Dossett is something of a modern historian, writing songs that tell stories from the Piedmont region, such as “Leaving Eden,” which chronicles the night drive of a mother and her children as they leave a community built on and later burned by a collapsing textile industry. One hot October night in early 2000 inspired “Surry County’s” burning. With guitarist Scott Manring, and vocalist Rhiannon Giddens occasionally joining her on set, Laurelyn rocked a set that’s usually reserved for the more, well, reserved audience.
And the audience came to listen. Before the first guitar was tuned, listeners lined up chairs, settling in with their dark brews in tall pint glasses, only breaking the silence to applaud, stomp, sing along, or laugh.