The songs presented on A Volte Ritornano offer glimpses into the struggles that have shaped Italy. Palmas and friends offer vital oral history from between the World Wars, providing reflections of the battlefronts, the anti-fascist resistance, and working class exploitation. Palmas recorded this repertoire to awaken the Italian consciousness to its past; the liner notes indicate that these songs vividly describe protest and struggle barely alluded to by contemporary Italian history books. As a testament to the power of popular folk song to remind people that their 'rights' are tenuous and that they have been fought and bled over, "A Volte Ritornano" is an emotionally draining, yet uplifting, experience.
Throughout, the musicianship is superb. Palmas, who sings and plays mandolins and guitar, has set the songs into a "folk-jazz" context. Many numbers swing, accompanied by the wonderful clarinet of Gabriele Mirabassi and the masterful accordion of Serge Desaunay. The arrangements sustain interest, wending their way from intimate cabaret jazz, to the slow-burn funk of "So' Stato A Lavora' A Montesicuro," to the shuffling beat of the classic Resistance song "Bella Ciao" which concludes the disc. One might not expect the kind of intricate interplay and soloing that Palmas and company have incorporated into these songs, and the effect makes A Volte Ritornano feel like its own revolution. But as this project celebrates the 'voice of the people,' it is the singing itself that carries the day. Evenly split between male and female vocalists, the band never overshadows its lyrical content. Whereas fascism sought 'strength through unity,' Palmas' music reminds us that unity has the strength to bring down fascism, and that the common folk cannot be silenced for long. - Lee Blackstone
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