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Our Native Daughters, Live

Thinking It Through

Our Native Daughters, Live

If you went to The Egg last Friday night, you were in for a real treat: One of just six shows by the Americana supergroup Our Native Daughters. 

Spearheaded by singer-songwriter Rhiannon Giddens, the group was captivating, mixing dark songs inspired by slave narratives with more buoyant, upbeat fare. 

The ensemble is comprised of four extremely talented women of color - Giddens, plus Allison Russell, Amythyst Kiah and Leyla McCalla - and they shared stories describing the inspirations behind their songs, many of which are featured on the group's terrific album from earlier this year, "Songs of Our Native Daughters." 

It made for a performance as electrifying as it was educational. 

The song "Quasheba, Quasheba" pays tribute to one of Russell's ancestors, who was sold into slavery in Ghana and sent to Grenada to work on a large sugar cane plantation, while the song "Mama's Cryin' Long" tells the story of a woman who murders her overseer after being raped repeatedly and is later lynched.

Told from the point of view of the woman's son, the song, which is based on a true story, is a chilling examination of the deadly consequences for slaves if they fought back against their oppressors. 

Another song, the rollicking "Polly Ann's Hammer," reinterprets the legend of John Henry by focusing on how his wife, Polly Ann, did his work and kept the household going when he fell sick. 

Our Native Daughters is a true ensemble. 

Every member got the chance to shine, and while they were all excellent, the break-out star might have been Kiah, whose deep voice and skilled musicianship command attention. 

One of the highlights of the concert was watching her perform a cover "Trouble So Hard," an old folk tune by Vera Hall that won a new generation of fans when Moby remixed it in his hit song "Natural Blues." I like "Natural Blues," but Kiah's version of the song contains a depth of feeling the Moby version simply can't match. 

All in all, it was a unique night of music that will stick with me for years to come. 

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