Rhiannon Giddens with Francesco Turrisi @ WOMADelaide, Botanic Park 7/3/2020

Ten thousand voices

Ten thousand songs

Ten thousand worries

Ten thousand wrongs

These are the lyrics penned by Rhiannon Giddens that frame her approach to music and set the tone for a riveting and unforgettable concert.

Giddens and Francesco Turrisi are multi-instrumentalists and together with upright bass player, Jason Sypher took a wildly appreciative WOMADelaide audience on a journey that spanned bluegrass, country, spiritual, Italian folk and Celtic jigs and reels.

Rhiannon Giddens is a highly decorated bluegrass and country musician and a virtuoso of the minstrel banjo. There are strands of Bela Fleck and Abigail Washington as she finger-picks her way through a spiritually uplifting version of the Traditional Wayfaring Stranger,

I am a poor wayfaring stranger

Travelling through this world alone

And then she takes us to the streets of Ireland with the Celtic Molly Brannigan, and the obligatory “diddily dees” and “diddly dums” which morph into some of the wildest jazz scatting you could wish for. Giddens has got a powerful and fluid voice which is backed up by the incredibly gifted percussionist Francesco Turrisi. At one point, Turrisi jokes with the audience that they have all come to hear his tambourine solo. He could well be true. I have not heard a tambourine solo quite like this. He uses every single bit of the tambourine to find sounds that I didn’t think possible.

Turrisi is a gifted musician in his own right – a keen student of jazz, Middle Eastern and North African music, and he plays percussion including the very evocative frame drum and keyboards. His Sicilian influence can be heard in Pizzica di san Santo with Rhiannon Giddens bending her voice and banjo around this traditional tarantella style dance.

Rhiannon Giddens and Francesco Turrisi may travel the globe looking for musical influences – but find a striking commonality in the texture and timbre and lyrics

I don’t know where I’m going

But I’m on my way,

seems to sum up their music – just keep looking and finding influences with an open and honest heart and you will come up some incredibly powerful songs and lyrics. This was one of those very special concerts by musical wizards that WOMADelaide seems to create year after year.

WOMAD Review By Bob Becker