Three from Italy:
Some compilations that will please novice and fanatic alike.

Italian Musical Odyssey
Putumayo (

cd cover In collecting together several of the crucial acts of the contemporary Italian folk revival, this collection smashes the stereotypical representation that Italian popular song begins and ends with "O Solo Mio." Gathered here are the monumental Piedmont group La Ciapa Rusa, the melodeon maestro Riccardo Tesi, Agricantus, and Novalia. All are represented in mainly acoustic, relaxed selections, but with their regional differences very much in evidence so that the percussion on tracks from southern Italy (Naples, Sicily) impart a Middle Eastern flavor.

The singing along this 'musical odyssey' is evocative, filled with traditional longings of place as on Calicanto's stunning ode to Venice, "Bealaguna." The Sardinian group Calic's contribution, "Attinde," is notable for its upbeat rhythm married to their island's polyphonic vocal style as well as its bizarre, violent lyrics that comment on modernization. While the compilation holds together brilliantly as an introduction to Italian music, it would have been exciting to have had some of the wilder cutting-edge experiments of folk music and dance-floor culture included. Nonetheless, Putumayo has corrected a grave injustice by bringing these artists heightened visibility; and, if the excellent liner notes pique your curiosity, an accompanying video documentary of the Italian roots scene is to follow. - Lee Blackstone

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cd cover Travellin' Companion 2
A Musical Journey to Italy
WeltWunder Records, Germany, via Stern's in USA (

R. Tesi
This collection covers almost none of the same artists as the Putumayo collection, and offers the "cutting edge" that the other lacks. It roars out of the gate with the manic energy Folkabestia's punky-funky folk-rock and then moves through heavier beats and big sounds from Novalia, Nidi d'Arac and Agricantus. Daniele Sepe's bizarre brass band arrangement is a key piece on the set as it degenerates into a sideshow barker's reggae rap, easily matched by similar elements in Mazapegul's "Bandido." There are folkier sounds, to be sure, like the percussion based dance music of Tammurriata di Scafati, RW house favorites B.E.V. with their wheezy reeds and accordions, Riccardo Tesi's rhythmically wonderful "Tevakh" and the rich male vocals of Baraban. But the real strength of this CD is in its broad strokes of style, a diversity that reflects a culture in flux and conflict and artists driven to explore and create as well as discover. It's all here in 17 tracks of some of the best the nation has to offer. - CF

Available from CDRoots
Audio: Riccoardo Tesi "Tevakh"
©1999 Felmay (

Musical Travelogue - Italy Auvidis/Silex

For those who want the pure 'folk' experience, a highly recommended trip can be made around the boot with this CD. It literally makes a journey, starting in the central Adriatic coast, moving up the coast, looping around Venice, Milan, and Genoa and then down the Mediterranean coast to Rome, Naples and Calabria, across to Sicily and then finishing off in Sardinia. Along the way you'll hear the unprocessed folk music in a cappella, raw fiddle dances, high energy accordion and percussion duos, some astounding, unnerving reed and horn music (said to be inspiration for some of Morricone's film work) and a host if other unique and inspired performances unfettered by studios or stages. - CF

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