Live Review: Rhiannon Giddens, Eric Avery & Graham Davis King

22 March 2016 | 12:45 pm | Liz Giuffre

"Giddens' reclamation — and celebration — of Underneath The Harlem Moon was delicious."

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The show began tonight with a gorgeous duet — Eric Avery on violin and his father, Graham Davis King, on didgeridoo. Their short set only contained three pieces, but the combination of sounds — the sweet jumping violin and low rumble of the didg — were perfect. Working to create a "song of healing" for their original work, the pair also included a "mash-up" inspired by Bach and jazz violin. More, please — it was wonderful!

Next, with a banjo, blue dress and bare feet, Rhiannon Giddens and her band took the stage. Beginning with Spanish Mary (a song written as part of a Bob Dylan project), they took us through an alternative history of the Great American songbook. With nods to Dolly Parton (Don't Let It Trouble Your Mind) and Patsy Cline (She's Got You), as well as lost jazz performer Geeshie Wiley, Giddens explained "there's a few history buffs" here. Wiley in particular is a singer otherwise lost to history though songs like Last Kind Words are well worth remembering, and Giddens' reclamation — and celebration — of Underneath The Harlem Moon was delicious. Explaining the origins of each song ("often a difficult history, but people had to live it, I just have to read it"), the joy was in the life that these 'new' oldies have. You wouldn't necessarily think "Canadian fiddle music" could sound fresh in 2016, but Giddens and her band are here to absolutely demonstrate it can. Same goes for belting a Scots Gaelic folk song that rattled along faster than the planes above the venue —  the type of tune that pays homage to migration, but also now stands as "vocal dance music". Throughout the set Giddens' range was explored and impressed all present — the richness of her voice and warmth of the delivery infectious. Come back soon, please.