The Assembly Rooms, Edinburgh
April 28th, 2023
With a coffee in my hand I embarked on a journey to Edinburgh to join in on the 2023 Tradfest folk festival that was to kick off that night with a performance by the lovely Rhiannon Giddens who has teamed up with Fransesco Turrisi for a show of the deepest music from the deepest talent. Rhiannon is a very well received American songwriter, singer, musician whose works have a great impression on the ever expanding world she creates around her.
Fransesco is a multifaceted Italian musician; their bond ship was of a splendid place as we took our seats in the amazing Assembly Rooms building that has its own striking history. It has two balconies to give you some impression of its capacity with a stage built for live music. The two commented frequently about it saying that the room’s visual and vast space had an effect of making for a really nice buzz.
Her support act came on as a duo of two friends who write, play and do everything else together. They played on accordion and violin compositions, self written and held to very far reach where music has a flow that though it sounds and runs as if with no effort or focus fingers were burning. The three pieces went for describing perfectly a moment from life transported to music.
The evening began with the sweetest of dedications and so the room was moulded to the stage for the festivals headliner acts; Rhiannon Giddens and Fransesco Turrisi who stepped on with the grace of a full orchestra yet with the pitter patter of only 4 feet.
Rhiannon is no stranger to the stage or its nuances, the kick off song was chosen with feelings still in the quake of covid’s blessing to the world. Written about a kind of death it was a beginning that by profuse and incredibly intense intelligence, her voice the most daring, darling and fragrant thing you’ve ever heard.
Her connections to folk music are a massive indication of its virility in the modern world who sometimes perhaps find a sense of second hand news about it. There was an undeniable truth, beauty and elevated passion as the almost unending changes of style, instrument, having pace and fiery tempo, and also lending grace in a show of a beauty harkening to the musical freedoms of justice, love, enterprise.
The song ‘Underneath the Harlem Moon’ played about with telling a story, to the right tuning, to the right delivery and to the right sense, it is no wonder she has achieved so many things in modern times. Though she too has had to learn, it seems as though she commands everything she can see and do. She is totally unafraid to set her sights on whatever she wants or needs to say, making music of Old Time, blues, jazz, folk all bundled in to a sound of profound classical and traditional Scottish amazingly enhanced and brought to life.
The sound reverberated as well creating on every level hers and Fransesco’s sound touching with something of a masterpiece of rhythm and that enormous grace and sense of style, forthrightness of spirited ablution. Things having reason in a place where music, laughter and graciousness played part with intimacy to rival for.
She knew her history and had the capacity as souring through in a brilliant kind of freedom, where her heart may find her. Then it’s just her, singing and playing alongside Turrisi in the pages of their book of musical knowledge wide open to a fault. Really brilliant and a great choice to set this coming week alight throwing a great card in first and cementing a kind a talent presence that will make this year’s festival unmissable. An incredibly wonderful standing point that I’m sure there is a great amount of excitement about, I feel close to tears just thinking about it.
Reviewer: Daniel Donnelly