Rhiannon Giddens is a folk queen. It’s the only way to fucking say it. Everything she makes feels grown from a dark and nutritious soil. That kind of dirt that smells clean, rich, and sticks together when you squish it between your fingers. If you pissed in it, you’d end up with a piss tree. That’s how fertile this is. You might think that after her recent release in February with her supergroup, Our Native Daughters, that she might not have the gusto to make another album worth its salt. But you’d be wrong. This is a salty bitch. These songs feel forged from the depths of time, which, many of them are. This is a mix of old tunes like “Little Margaret”, “pizzica di San Vito”, and, “Wayfaring Stranger” mixed in with newly penned songs from Rhiannon. It’s hard to tell the difference between the two. That’s not luck, that’s pure fucking talent. With one foot planted in the past and the other entrenched in our modern age, Rhiannon stands firm and inconceivably tall. She’s a goddamn brick house.
This album explores how the African and Arabic jams mix with traditional music from America or Europe. Often lofty goals like this are accompanied with stilts for legs. But not this motherfucker. The end sound comes out dark, lavish, and rebounding throughout all human history. To help her with this task she’s employed the musical talents of Francesco Turrisi that can play … well, fucking everything it seems. He plays ten different instruments on this album. Hear that? Ten. Dude breathes in chords, shits out verses, and farts in thirds. This album uses three different kinds of banjos, an accordion, a violin, a viola, a cello, a piano, and drums from Greece, Morocco, and Italy. This shit’s jam-packed with acoustic awesomeness. These diverse instruments aren’t just for show. A snare-like bass drum on “Little Margaret” give the song an essence that makes me want to strip naked, paint up my shit, and dance around a roaring fire. On some whisky-fuelled night in the not so distant future, I’ll probably end up doing this. The odd piano plinks on songs like “Black Swan” reveal Francesco’s jazz backing and improvisational skills. Guy’s fucking talented.
This album was recorded in five fucking days. That’s it. That’s all. These two just showed up in a studio in Dublin one day and shat gold. I’ve known some people that frown at this, those that believe months in the studio make a good album. I’ve seen reluctant producers unwilling to pay musicians cause they laid it down perfectly on the first take. What these idiots don’t see is the rest of the goddamn story. Folks like Rhiannon and Francesco live music. They’ve spent years in lessons, whole paychecks on albums, and often amass harrowing debts from all the instruments that they’ve bought. Music is in everything they do. It’s their passion, their purpose, and, I would argue, their vocation. It’s in their fucking blood. Albums like this are a glimpse into the lives of people that have sacrificed everything to the altar of music. Sure, it might have taken five days to record, but it took a fucking lifetime to reach.