Rhiannon Giddens with Francesco Turrisi, "Waterbound"

  • March 03, 2021
  • Henry Carrigan

by Henry Carrigan (@henry.carrigan), Folk Alley

Rhiannon Giddens’ yearning fiddle note floats over Congolese guitarist Niwel Tsumbu’s circling fingerpicking notes in the opening measures of her new single, “Waterbound” with Francesco Turrisi. Turrisi’s shuffling brushes act like little waves, pushing along the gentle lapping of the vocals, guitar, and fiddle that flow along in a sprightly reel springing from Appalachian and Celtic streams. Giddens revisits the traditional fiddle tune from 1929, altering the lyrics slightly to remind us of the ways that water can both carry us to our destinations and prevent us from reaching them: “River’s up, and I can’t get across/Before the water rises.” While the first two verses and the refrain mourn being hemmed in and unable to reach home—“Waterbound, and I can’t get home/Down to North Carolina”—the third verse celebrates the joy of being together and holding on to the moment even in the midst of isolation—"Stay all night and don’t go in/Dance with me ‘till morning.” The video artfully blends with photos of their families with images of the ocean whose expanse separates Giddens and Turrisi from family in America and Italy. “Waterbound” bathes us in its clear and pure and instrumental and vocal beauty, even as it flows along waves of longing and yearning for the water to carry us home.

Giddens reflects on the song: “‘Waterbound’ is a song I learned a long time ago and it brings me forcefully home to North Carolina when I sing it, and considering that I am, indeed waterbound, and have been for a long time, it's a rare moment when a folk song represents exactly my situation in time.”


"Waterbound" from Giddens and Turrisi's forthcoming album 'They're Calling Me Home' (4/9, Nonesuch) is available HERE.

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