Rhiannon Giddens, whose collaborative project Our Native Daughters released its debut album in February, continues her exploration of world music with the May 3rd release of There Is No Other, an album recorded in Dublin with Italian multi-instrumentalist Francesco Turrisi and produced by Joe Henry. The title (stylized as there is no Other) refers to the marginalizing practice of “othering,” which includes, but is not limited to, discrimination and prejudice on the basis of group identity. The music the pair has created explores how sounds moved from Africa and the Arabic world to influence music throughout Europe and the Americas.
“It’s all about movement, for both of us. . . movements of human beings and how we affect each other,” Giddens recently told The Irish Times. “If you just look at our range of instruments, where they’ve come from and how they’ve traveled 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 tunes recorded by Giddens and Turrisi during a five-day period at Dublin’s Windmill Lane recording studios, is “I’m on My Way,” an intensely striking tune which finds both sweet freedom and an uncertain future in the image of a “little bird… stretching out to the shimmering, shaking blue.”
The original songs penned by Giddens for the LP are joined by interpretations of classics such as Ola Belle Reed’s “I’m Gonna Write Me a Letter,” and Oscar Brown, Jr.’s “Brown Baby,” as well as the traditional Italian tune, “Pizzica di San Vito.” With very little editing and overdubbing throughout the album, the two musicians play the majority of instruments, with Giddens singing and contributing minstrel banjo, octave violin and viola, while Turrisi plays piano, accordion, frame drum, tamburello, lute, cello banjo, daf and colascione. Musician Kate Ellis joins them on four cuts, playing cello and viola.
Giddens and Turrisi will debut several songs from the album at this weekend’s Big Ears Festival in Knoxville, Tennessee, on Friday, March 22nd. Lucy Negro Redux, the new ballet scored by the pair, will be performed twice at the festival, with Giddens and Turrisi playing the score live on stage. Giddens, who is also featured in Ken Burns’ upcoming PBS series Country Music, will be among the acts featured at concerts tied to the series in New York and Nashville. She and Turrisi have plans for a tour that extends throughout the fall.
There Is No Other, out May 3rd on Nonesuch Records, is now available for pre-order, with Nonesuch store pre-orders including an exclusive, limited-edition signed print. A deluxe vinyl edition of the album will be released in the fall.
There Is No Other track list:
“Ten Thousand Voices”
“I’m Gonna Write Me a Letter”
“there is no Other”
“Trees on the Mountains”
“Pizzica di San Vito”
“I’m On My Way”
“He Will See You Through”