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The Alan Lomax Collection: Italian Treasury - Calabria

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Album Review

As part of Alan Lomax and Diego Carpitella's field recordings in Italy in 1954, they spent a few weeks in Calabria, which forms the southern toe of the Italian peninsula. Calabria was a poor region, and the folk traditions documented on these 28 recordings (most of which are previously unreleased) have been modified in subsequent decades, in some cases vanishing altogether. The music is raw and heartfelt, and pretty diverse, taking in guitar ballads, various bagpipe sounds, accordion, a cappella polyphonic vocals, and rattling tambourine accompaniment. The most arresting qualities of the selections are usually embodied in the vocals, which often have an unhoned and pained feel, conveying the suffering the performers' hard lives entailed, yet also the dignity necessary to survive them. "Alla Bagnarota," presented by two male voices and two guitars, might be the most conventionally appealing item in a program that can be demanding if rewarding listening, due to the mosaic of styles and slice-of-life ambience of the performances.


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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