Directed by Laura Sheeran. From there is no Other, due May 3 on Nonesuch.
You might know Rhiannon Giddems from the Carolina Chocolate Drops. Their 2010 album Genuine Negro Jig made a big splash with a fiddle-banjo-beatbox cover of “Hit ‘Em Up Style.”
Giddens has been plenty busy since then, releasing two more Chocolate Drops albums, some solo stuff, and a bunch of collaborations. And now she’s teamed up with Sicilian multi-instrumentalist Francesco Turrisi and recorded a new album in Dublin.
She recently told the Irish Times, “The way that both of us approach music is very similar because we’re both very educated about where the music is coming from. But when it comes to playing, we’re both just playing what we feel. […] The banjo is my chosen instrument, it’s what I write my music on. I play a replica of a banjo from the 1950s. It was the first commercial-style banjo in the United States so it’s the first one that white people played. Before that there would have been many years of black folks playing home-made plantation instruments: they would have been using gourds as banjos, and then it changed to the hoop and the skin stretched over that, and from then on that’s what all banjos looked like. Mine’s fretless, so it’s a kind of a bridge from the pure black instrument that it used to be to what’s become now – seen as a totally white instrument even though that transition was a lot more grey. There were a lot of black people who played the banjo for a long time into the late ’50s.”
It’s cool to hear how they are combining different backgrounds and instruments and it still comes together sounding like deeply American, spiritual music.