tue 23/04/2024

Album: They're Calling Me Home - Rhiannon Giddens with Francesco Turrisi | reviews, news & interviews

Album: They're Calling Me Home - Rhiannon Giddens with Francesco Turrisi

Album: They're Calling Me Home - Rhiannon Giddens with Francesco Turrisi

Homecoming songs for life after Covid

Now we are at the beginning of lockdown’s end and the gradual loosening of the pandemic’s grip on pretty well every aspect of our lives, what is perhaps one of the warmest and most uplifting of albums recorded under Covid conditions comes in the shape of Rhiannon Giddens and her partner, Italian multi-instrumentalist Francesco Turrisi’s fine new album They’re Calling Me Home.

The title track opens the set, and it feels like it’s sung in prospect of returning to life after lockdown, albeit under the shadow of the toll of death the pandemic has wrought. Alice Gerrard’s song is a classic leave-taking, but with a spiritual uplift that seems to defy the gravity of its subject, and as Giddens has said, it has the heft of a song that sounds like it has always been there, as old as the hills. ‘Amazing Grace’ and ‘O Death’ are its not-so-boon companions, and they sit alongside old-timey classics Giddens learnt early in her career and hasn’t played for years – the likes of ‘I Shall Not Be Moved’, ‘Black As Crow’ and ‘Waterbound’.

But this is not all about old-time Americana. Alongside them you’ll find ‘Nonna Nonna’, an Italian lullaby Turrisa brings to the table, while Giddens the opera singer comes to the fore on a beautiful account of Monteverdi’s ‘Si Dolce è'l Tormento’ (‘How Sweet is the Torment’) as well as a beautiful, magical ‘When I was in My Prime’ a traditional folk song recorded by Pentangle and Nina Simone, among others. On instrumentals such as ‘Niwel Goes to Town’, their regular mix of viola, minstrel banjo, accordion and frame drums is augmented by guest player Congolese guitarist Niwel Tsumbu, and Irish traditional musician Emer Mayock brings her flute, whistle, and pipes to the Appalachian lament ‘Black as Crow’, an exquisite miniature of an instrumental in‘Bully for You’, and the closing ‘Amazing Grace’, which is refreshed and renewed by their modes of performance – Turrisi’s frame drum leading Giddens’ wordless vocal, with Moyock’s uilleann pipes bringing this warm, rich set to a keening close.


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