Rhiannon Giddens, lead singer, violinist, banjo player and founding member of Carolina Chocolate Drop, an American blues and country band, spent some time in Windmill Lane Recording Studios continuing her exploration of world music to record for her new album There Is No Other. She collaborated with Italian multi-instrumentalist Francesco Turrisi and producer Joe Henry.
The album’s title is a reference to the marginalising practice of “othering,” which includes, but is not limited to, discrimination and prejudice on the basis of group identity. It explores how music and sounds have moved from the African and the Arabic world to influence musicians throughout Europe and America.
“It’s all about movement, for both of us. . . movements of human beings and how we affect each other,” Giddens said in a recent Irish Times interview.
“If you just look at our range of instruments, where they’ve come from and how they’ve travelled across the world, it’s pretty amazing. The way that both of us approach music is very similar because we’re both educated about where the music is coming from. But when it comes to playing, we’re both just playing what we feel.”
Among the songs that were recorded by Giddens and Turrisi during five days here at the studios is “I’m on My Way,” quite a striking song that finds both freedom and an uncertain future in the image of a “little bird… stretching out to the shimmering, shaking blue.”
The original songs written by Giddens for the LP are joined by interpretations of classics tracks including Ola Belle Reed’s “I’m Gonna Write Me a Letter,” and Oscar Brown, Jr.’s “Brown Baby,” as well a traditional Italian song, “Pizzica di San Vito.” The album is quite stripped back with little editing and overdubbing. The two musicians play the most of the instruments, with Rhiannon singing and playing banjo, violin and viola, whilst Francesco plays the piano, accordion, drums, lute, banjo, daf and colascione.
There Is No Other, is set for release on the May 3rd on Nonesuch Records.