American musician and performer Rhiannon Giddens joins Beat’s Turning Heads podcast to speak about They’re Calling Me Home, her second collaborative LP with Italian multi-instrumentalist Francesco Turrisi.
The classically-trained Rhiannon Giddens has been active in the blues, folk, country and bluegrass fields for the last 15 years, starting her journey as one third of string music revival act, the Caroline Chocolate Drops. On albums such as Genuine Negro Jig, the group performed traditional folk songs that originated in North Carolina and underscored the major influence that enslaved African Americans had on the development of country and Americana music.
Giddens broke away from the Chocolate Drops to release her debut album, Tomorrow is My Turn, in 2015. Much like the group’s records, the track-list was filled with interpretations, including songs by Dolly Parton and Sister Rosetta Tharpe. Giddens’ next album, 2017’s Freedom Highway, was dominated by original compositions, many of which were based on slave narratives. The album also brought attention to Giddens’ minstrel-era replica banjo, which has since become an essential part of her sound.
Her first album with Turrisi was 2019’s There is no Other, an ambitious work that encompasses not just folk and bluegrass, but also opera, gospel, and Italian traditionals. Theirs is an incredibly fruitful partnership, built around Giddens’ banjo playing and deeply resonant voice and Turrisi’s variety of frame drums.
The new album, They’re Calling Me Home, was recorded in mid-2020 on a farm just outside of the pair’s current home city of Dublin, Ireland. It’s made up of songs from America, Italy, and Ireland that long for the comfort of home and gesture towards death.
In the podcast, Rhiannon speaks about the nature of her collaboration with Turrisi, what compelled them to make the new album in the midst of a pandemic and how music’s given her strength over the last 12 months.
Check out the podcast episode below: