There’s no stopping Rhiannon Giddens at the moment. She’s a force of nature, or at least of American music. Fresh from the remarkable collaboration of Our Native Daughters comes this disc with Dublin-based Italian instrumentalist Turrisi.
Recorded in five days, the pair, along with cellist Kate Ellis and producer Joe Henry examine the influence of Arabic and African musics on what we know in Europe and America. Made with very little editing or overdubbing, it’s an album that can surprise and delight (as on Pizzica Di San Vito, which really does conjure up the dry, dusty heel of Italy) or He Will See You Through, with its strong echoes of gospel that pierce down to the soul (also true on Wayfaring Stranger, although that song is a little overworked now).
Some attempts don’t work quite as well, like Briggs’ Forró, which never fully takes form. Little Margaret, actually a Child Ballad, finds a surprisingly natural home here, sliding easily among less Northern styles, yet utterly at home – a testament to the vision and reach of Giddens and Turrisi. But letting air and other light into American music is what Giddens does so well – her trademark – and this adds to the sum of knowledge and beauty that she’s created. In Turrisi she’s found a foil of imagination and skill to match her own. It’s a marriage made in musical heaven.