Sancto Ianne,
(Folk Club Ethnosuoni, 2013)

The Benevento, Italy, folk group Sancto Ianne has kept its fans in suspense for seven years, but the new CD Trase has lived up to every expectation.

If you missed the band's previous releases -- Scapula! and Mo Siente, released in the middle of the last decade -- these are classics of the contemporary folk-roots genre. Both albums presented the listener with an upbeat, thoughtful and professionally produced song selection, introducing us to the people and culture of Italy's interior region of Sannia.

This current release builds on this world of characters, events and landscapes while developing a new set of concerns, delivered with a familiar musical vocabulary. The sextet presents 14 new tracks with the same appeal as the group's prior work.

Key to the Sancto Ianne sound is the songwriting and guitar of Ciro Maria Schettino, whose memorable playing styles draw from a wide repertoire of not only Italian but also Roma, Arabic and other influences. Adding to this is the expressive vocal delivery of Giovanni Principe, an effective vehicle for the delivery of the message.

While the lyrics are in the language of Benevento, and thus difficult for outsiders to decipher, Principe's emotive voice is relied upon all the more for its interpretive power and ability to convey a message (a short description of the song's theme is provided in both English and Italian).

While all of the songs carry an important message, four in particular form an album within an album. The four are from the local drama written about the Valani, local children who were sold as virtual slaves. This happened in this impoverished area for many centuries.

Other songs have to do with the environment. "'A Ballatta dell'emergenza" ("The Ballad of the Crisis") asks what strange creatures we humans are, to destroy our own home. In the beautiful and inspirational "'A Forma 'Ell'Acqua" ("The Shape of Water"), the band maintains that water is a human right and should remain in public hands.

Besides these, standout tracks include the title and opening track "Trase," which opens with a bluesy bass solo, and Principe's stark voice, and deals with personal relationships; and the poignant "Guardame sienteme" featuring a short rap by Shark MC, which talks about unemployment in the region and the work people have to do to survive.

The one instrumental is "Judeca," which is violinist Raffaele Tiseo's tribute to the Jewish community of Benevento.

The Sancto Ianne sound is so consistent, it can only be the fruit of an extremely close veteran band. While guitarist Schettino and violinist Tiseo are the virtuosos, each of the group's members contributes to the sound. I appreciate Alfonso Coviello's sensitive and thoughtful percussion, contemporary but heartfelt, just perfect for this kind of music. Massimo Amoriello on bass and Sergio Napolitano on accordion also excel.

While the two previous albums referenced above could be flashy and inviting, Trase is more subtle in the way it works its magic. If you are new to the group's work, give this album time. Listen from beginning to end with close attention to the musicianship. Sancto Ianne is a true musical treasure.

music review by
David Cox

14 June 2014

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