Considering that in 2002, the year that Rounder issued Alan Lomax's recordings from the Salento region of Puglia, many people who lived in the smaller towns and villages still spoke only, or predominantly, in their dialect, as opposed to in codified Italian, it is unsurprising that a vast majority of the songs on Italian Treasury: Puglia the Salento, most of which are previously unreleased, are also in dialect. Even those in a more standard Italian are difficult to understand -- "A Dove Vai Bella Fanciulla?," for example, has layered female voices that seem closer to wailing than singing, and individual words are hard to make out. Given its geographical nearness to both Greece and North Africa, there are clear Eastern influences in the music of Puglia mixed in with the Western traditions, both in vocal phrasing and instrumentation, which add interesting elements to the music and reflect the multi-ethnic history of the region. The quality of the recordings, as they were originally done in 1954, is what would be expected, but that just adds to the old-world appeal; for anyone interested in Italian folk music or folk music in general, Puglia the Salento, complete with detailed liner notes, is an important album to hear.
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AllMusic Review by Marisa Brown