Since leaving Carolina Chocolate Drops for a solo career in 2015, Rhiannon Giddens has boldly stretched with each successive album, not only redefining Black American traditions, but adding flourishes of the avant garde to the result. Her first collaboration with Italian multi-instrumentalist Francesco Turrisi in 2019 continued in this vein.
On the pair’s second outing, They’re Calling Me Home (Nonesuch), the two opt for a kinder, gentler path back to tradition, serving up works like “I Shall Not Be Moved” and “Amazing Grace.” On that latter traditional hymn, Emer Mayock adds uilleann pipes to Turrisi’s frame drum to yield an unearthly song.
An original track by the duo, “Avalon,” as well as an Italian traditional number, “Nenna Nenna,” pull the music so far from the rural traditionalism Giddens favored with her Our Native Daughters project, it’s hard to say what planet she and Turrisi might be from. But it’s certain that it’s a very friendly place, and the duo are calling us to a home anyone might recognize.
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