Tre Martelli
Car der Steili
Dunya (

One of the more important groups in the Italian roots music movement, Tre Martelli has been around since 1976. They research and recreate the folk music of the north Italian Piedmont region. The principle instruments heard in this six-member band include accordion, musette (bagpipe), hurdy-gurdy and violin, plus the extraordinary singer Vincenzo "Ciacio" Marchelli, whose robust vocals evoke a sense of the rustic that is perfect for Tre Martelli's music.

"Hale-Bopp Scottish"
Three songs on Car der Steili were either collected or composed by band member Rinaldo Doro. "Jolicoeur," a collected piece, appears to be of classical background. One usually thinks of classical composers raiding the European countryside for peasant melodies that they use as source material. But "Jolicoeur" provides evidence that folk artists borrowed from urban and art music as well. Doro's original compositions include a trio of tunes based on an old Piedmontese musical form, the monferrine. In Tre Martelli, traditional music performance and contemporary composition exist side by side.

A number of the other dance tunes performed here are taken from music books originally published in the 19th and early 20th century. During this period, a number of Italian composers and musicians went into the countryside to annotate and record village music. Copies of some of these original scores were used as source materials for "Monferrine di Masserano" and a trio of anonymously composed polkas.

"Er Car di Trasloc"
My favorite tracks on this CD are two poems by Giovanni Rapetti which were set to music by Tre Martelli fiddle player Andrea Sibilio, with vocals by Ciacio Marchelli. "Er Car di Trasloc" uses the metaphor of a removal cart (the old garbage truck) to philosophize about the vanity of this world. "Ra Balada'd Catarinein" is about a village beauty who is loved by two men. She marries one of them, "keeps her dress buttoned" and maintains her honor in order to hold her head up in the village. The vocals, incidentally, are performed in the Piedmont dialect and are translated into both Italian and English in the CD liner notes.

Too few Italians know about their own roots music scene. During a visit today to one large North American Italian music web site, I couldn't find a single listing for any of the Italian roots music bands. More the pity when groups like Tre Martelli are producing such distinctive and exciting albums. - Aaron Howard

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