Sxip Shirey says his upcoming album A Bottle Of Whiskey And A Handful Of Bees is "about searching for home and being placeless." And that's certainly true of "Woman Of Constant Sorrow," a rework of the early 20th century folk classic featuring Rhiannon Giddens.
Like the album's other 17 tracks, the song was recorded (and its video was filmed) in several cities around the world, partly during the two years Shirey was on tour with the LIMBO circus show. "I was making this album at the same time, so a lot of this song was composed in London," Shirey tells Billboard. "I was just working on this beat and there was this African coffee shop I would go to. I was sitting with this really great beat thinking, 'What am I gonna do wtih this song?' I suddenly realized you could sing 'Man Of Constant Sorrow' over the beat, so I started doing that and then thought, 'What If I wrote from the woman's perspective -- not a woman done wrong and hurt but a woman's who's done wrong and thinks, 'Fuck it. I'm gonna go out and have a good time!'" That attitude led Shirey to recruit Giddens, with whom he's worked in the past -- most notably as Sxip and Rhi.
"Women feel empowered when they hear Rhiannon sing," explains Shirey, who wrote all the lyrics for the song and directed its video, which was also filmed in several cities around the world. "So I wrote it for her, thinking about where she comes from as a singer and also where she comes from as a social being, as an artist. She happened to be in London at the same time and I played her just the beat. She said, 'Who is that for?' I said, 'It's for you,' and she was like, 'Yeah, I want to sing this one...'" Watch the premiere of the "Woman of Constant Sorrow" video on Billboard today.