Another video that goes to 11
She has wowed the MacArthur Foundation (Genius Grant, 2017). She has wowed the Recording Academy (multiple Grammys for folk music) and wowed Yo-Yo Ma (recently succeeding him as artistic director of the Silkroad arts collective). But can she wow the Sublime-a-Tron, a mechanical aesthete who is as oblivious to celebrity hoopla as a toaster? Yes. Yes, she can. In this pairing with the accordionist Jeff Cunningham, Rhiannon Giddens shows what she can do with the sparest of materials: a bleak old tune built from five notes, a bare-bones banjo ostinato, and three plain chords on the accordion. Working from this simple palette, she captures all the pain of the human condition. Her pure, supple alto swells with longing for a world free of “sickness, toil, or death,” moderated only by her faith that she will soon be “goin’ over home.” Everything about the video supports the poetry: The dim lighting. The deserted church. The remoteness of the stained-glass windows. The closeups of the singer’s anguished face. And the ethereal accordion, which seems to beckon from somewhere over Jordan. The Sublime-a-Tron needed a couple of stiff belts after this one.