Alan Lomax

Italian Treasury: Folk Music & Song of Italy

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Alan Lomax, the man who apparently never slept in the 1950s in his quest to document various forms of international folk music throughout the world, made Italy his stop in the spring of 1953. For the next year he journeyed throughout the country with Diego Carpitella, recording in Sicily, Calabria, Sardinia, and several other regions. Italy is a large country with diverse folk musics, and it's impossible to generalize, even in a sweeping manner, about the nature of the sounds documented on this disc -- which was, of course, one of the points of Lomax's expeditions. There are stark vocals with only Jew's harp as accompaniment, sea shanties, male choruses, accordion music, spooky dances with frame drum and mobile hammers as percussion, guitar ballads, brass bands, and more. For some it will be too eclectic and arcane for casual listening, but it's certainly interesting and doles out the unexpected. Among the most affecting performances are the five-minute guitar ballad "Stornelli" by Calamita & Gucci, which doesn't sound far removed from Mexican guitar folk or Portuguese fado in its sad elegance; "Tammurriata," with its thumping frame drum and odd female chanted-sung vocals; and a couple of male choral pieces in which the bass voices buzz in a way reminiscent of Tuvan throat singers.

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