Rhiannon Giddens w/ Francesco Turrisi
There Is No Other
From her time with Carolina Chocolate Drops and now through her solo albums and shows Rhiannon Giddens spans decades and bridges musical genres bringing both a warmth and show-stopping dazzle to the old-time music of Americana past. She’s been a TV star (Nashville), an opera-trained academic and a master communicator of both songs and the history connected to them. Her latest album is a collaboration with Italian multi-instrumentalist Francesco Turrisi. Here he’s on a range of traditional percussion instruments – in his spare time he tours the world and records as a solo concert pianist.
I mean, it’s just the ultimate musical power-couple really. There work here is a history lesson through songs you know so well but get to hear anew as if for the very first time (Wayfaring Stranger) This is the trick she offers: Giddens can take a tune from deep in the dark heart of America’s country-blues tradition and shine a light on it in such a way as to make it feel brand new. It’s like a Ken Burns documentary come to life (and yes, if you’ve caught his latest you’ll have seen and heard Giddens as one of the informative talking heads).
Hers is the spine-chilling voice of new Americana and here framed by Turrissi’s percussion we are taken back to music’s earliest heartbeats. Listen, mouth open, to the version of Little Margaret where Giddens sings with only the daf playing (that’s a Middle Eastern frame drum, maybe think of the Celtic bodhran) of Turrisi. All at once it’s Joni Mitchell singing with the Drummers of Burundi and Shirley Collins and Davy Graham as they worked out their new routes through folk roots.
Actually, there is no other recording quite like There Is No Other. One of the best and best-titled albums of 2019.
To see this music presented live will be the ultimate thrill. How lucky audiences are to have Giddens and Turrisi making – and touring – this music. It’s a museum of musical stories put to life, fresh, vibrant, important and mesmerizing.
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