There can't be too many 70-year-old singers making their recording debuts, but Dominic Chianese has the advantage of a featured role on a hit television series, The Sopranos, on which he plays semi-retired Mob boss Uncle Junior. As it happens, Chianese also has a lengthy career behind him in both acting and singing, and one gets a good sense of the latter on the ironically titled Hits. There are definite suggestions of the Italian-American crooners of the 1940s and '50s here, as he essays Italian-language traditional songs like "State Vicino a Me," as well as the 1913 hit "Santa Lucia," which is performed as a duet with the Mavericks' Raul Malo. Another song Chianese probably heard growing up is "Ramona," which was first a hit in 1928. But he also has a background in the Greenwich Village folk scene, and you can hear that aspect of his talent when he sings folkie favorites like "Guantanamera." The album was cut in Nashville, and the singer's feel for the '60s countrypolitan style is apparent in his rendition of Kris Kristofferson's "For the Good Times." Yet he is, as he acknowledges in one of three self-written numbers, a "Typical New Yorker." Perhaps most of all, this personable tenor is an actor who brings a sense of character to the varied material here, as if he were playing a series of different small parts. Sopranos fans who know him as the tough, foul-mouthed Uncle Junior may be surprised to find a far gentler, funnier performer on this disc than they are used to from television, but they are likely to find him even more appealing as a result.
by William Ruhlmann