La Lionetta,
(Folk Club Ethnosuoni, 2003)

This veteran group from the Italian province of Piemonte has a lively and interesting brand of folk that blends elements not only from their home in the Torino area, but also southern Italy, the Balkans, Klezmer, Gypsy (Rom) and other Euromusics.

Apart from being a crossroads (Piemonte in northern Italy has a Celtic heritage in its past), this region also has its own language, related to Franco-Provencal or Occitan, which is spoken as well as standard Italian. The band is proud of this heritage and sings in Piemontese on several tracks.

The band consists of five musicians and assorted guests, and features vocals by Roberto Aversa, Maurizio Bertani and Massimo Lupotti, and such instruments as guitar, pipes, mandolin, bouzouki, darbouka, tablas, mandolin-cello, violin, bass tuba, bombard and so on. Lots of variety. Even George Bush makes an appearance, so to speak, as does a Turin commuter train and the Mediterranean Sea. Diversity is the name of the game with this group.

With percussionist Lucio Molinari constantly inventing, energizing and moving the band forward, the others get creative as well. There's no one style or constant other than change: If you think you have a fix on this album after one, two or three tracks, you'll be wrong. In fact, I was fooled and mistakenly kept this one on the shelf for several months, waiting for the right time.

The first two tracks feature energetic percussion and guitar and sound almost Klezmerish, with the tuba bumping us along, but then along comes the lovely "Palomar," Bertani's composition, beginning with a Celtic harp (Vincenzo Zitello) and whistle, mandolin and darbouka, then concluding with Aversa joining in on pipes. Very Celtic but also very Italian. A gem.

Another standout track is "Manolita," Aversa's composition, which opens with a very leisurely, ancient, almost Arabic-sounding vocal, then in comes the percussion, the violin, the guitar and the tempo picks up.

Overall, this CD a very interesting listen, if only for the juxtaposition of instruments (bouzouki and tuba, for instance) that we don't normally associate together. At times powerful, at times melodic, always keeping you on your toes, or tapping them, this is one worth checking out and giving more than one good listen.

by David Cox
1 April 2006

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