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Traditional Music & Songs of Italy

Alan Lomax

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Album Review

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.

Biography

Born: 15 January 1915 in Austin, TX

Genre: World

Years Active: '30s, '40s, '50s, '60s, '70s, '80s, '90s, '00s

Few figures deserve greater credit for the preservation of America's folk music traditions than Alan Lomax. Scouring the backroads, honky tonks, and work camps of the Deep South, he unearthed a treasure trove of songs and singers, documenting the music of the common man for future generations to discover; through Lomax's pioneering efforts, cultural traditions ranging from the Delta blues to Appalachian folk to field hollers continue to live on, with his invaluable recordings offering a compelling...
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Traditional Music & Songs of Italy, Alan Lomax
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