Rhiannon Giddens

There is No Other

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Often, the phrase "there is no other" carries an air of romanticism, but Rhiannon Giddens turns its conventional meaning on its head on her collaboration with Francesco Turrisi. The pair focus directly on "othering," the process of identifying different cultures as alien from a person's own experience -- a phenomenon that the pair refute not only with the title of their 2019 album but the very music it contains. Giddens claims classical music and old-timey folk as her musical heritage; Turrisi is a jazz musician who studied early music -- backgrounds that provide a considerable amount of common ground, something that is evident throughout the restless, haunting There Is No Other. While it's possible to trace individual elements back to their origins -- much of the music churns to a Mediterranean drone, Giddens' dexterous claw-hammered banjo is at the forefront -- it takes close listening to parse these parts, as the duo are determined to emphasize common threads that tie cultures together. It makes for a heady listen in every sense of the word. Certainly, it's a record that rewards close listening -- there's an intellectual thrill in hearing how the musical and lyrical themes intertwine -- but it's also a visceral album, equally enchanting and eerie. By initially connecting at this gut emotional level, There Is No Other invites the repeated listens required to discover all of its mysteries but Giddens and Turrisi are by no means offering solutions: the more There Is No Other reveals, the more it becomes apparent that its depths are fathomless.

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