By Kira Grunenberg | Published August 2019
Rhiannon Giddens has a laudable ability to shape music that inspires healthy discomfort and thought-expanding contemplation, and There Is No Other, her recent recording with multi-instrumentalist Francesco Turrisi, does both.
While Giddens’ contributions to the recent collaborative record Songs Of Our Native Daughters took a sometimes brutally honest path to shed light on the history of slavery, There Is No Other is less overt in exploring cultural inclusion. Striking silences and stripped-down arrangements help Giddens and Turrisi embolden songs’ messages by giving them room to breathe. The traditional tune “Little Margaret” relies solely on the sharp slap and long, metallic, buzzing decay of Turrisi’s daf drum to propel the song’s detailed story. Giddens’ originals each exercise melodic subtlety, fostering a meditative atmosphere around the brief, but poignant, lyric lines she’s penned. And despite its denser instrumentation and faster tempo, the same can be said for “Pizzica Di San Vito,” with vocals hovering around a harmonic minor core, only emphasizing the rhythmic momentum of Giddens’ acutely enunciated Salentino dialect.
Sounds of instruments less familiar to contemporary listeners—from Giddens’ plucks of the minstrel banjo to Turrisi’s delicate command of the colascione and tamburello—draw attention for their unexpected timbres. They work alongside the musical and lyrical context to make a deeper impression on anyone who takes the time to listen.
There Is No Other: Ten Thousand Voices; Gonna Write Me A Letter; Wayfaring Stranger; There Is No Other; Trees On The Mountains; Pizzica Di San Vito; Brown Baby; Briggs’ Forró; Little Margaret; Black Swan; I’m On My Way; He Will See You Through. (45:01)
Personnel: Rhiannon Giddens, vocals, banjo, violin, viola; Francesco Turrisi, piano, accordion, percussion, colascione, cello, banjo; Kate Ellis, cello (2, 5, 12), viola (2).