Rhiannon Giddens - They’re Calling Me Home

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Rhiannon Giddens’ new album They’re Calling Me Home was recorded with Italian multi-instrumentalist Francesco Turrisi. Giddens and Turrisi, who both live in Ireland when they aren’t on tour, have been there since March 2020 due to the pandemic. The two expats found themselves drawn to the music of their native and adoptive countries of America, Italy, and Ireland during lockdown. Exploring the emotions brought up by the moment, Giddens and Turrisi decamped to Hellfire, a small studio on a working farm outside of Dublin, to record these songs over six days. The result is They’re Calling Me Home, a twelve-track album that speaks of the longing for the comfort of home as well as the metaphorical “call home” of death, which has been a tragic reality for so many during the COVID-19 crisis.

They’re Calling Me Home features several traditional songs that Giddens hasn't played for years, including some of the first old-time pieces she ever learned: ‘I Shall Not Be Moved’, ‘Black As Crow (Dearest Dear)’ and ‘Waterbound’. The album also includes a new song Giddens wrote, ‘Avalon’, as well as an Italian lullaby, ‘Nenna Nenna’, that Turrisi used to sing to his infant daughter that took on new resonance during the lockdown.

They’re Calling Me Home also includes two well-known songs about death: ‘Amazing Grace’ and ‘O Death’. The minstrel banjo, accordion and frame drums that have become characteristic of the pair’s sound are well represented on the album, but it’s the viola and cello banjo combination that captures unexpected emotion and intensity. Joining them at key moments are Congolese guitarist Niwel Tsumbu and Irish traditional musician Emer Mayock on flute, whistle, and pipes. Engineer Ben Rawlins was key to the shape and sound of the record while Giddens and Turrisi produced and Kim Rosen mastered.