various artists,
Italian Treasury: Abruzzo
(Rounder, 2001)

From the first note of this disc, I felt like I had gotten off the bus at the wrong stop. It certainly might not have been so bad that I had ended up in Abruzzo, a mountainous region of south-central Italy. But I had ended up in a strange abode, in the middle of a birthday (or was it funeral?) celebration for someone I didn't know. And worse, there was nothing going on but bad music.

Abruzzo features Alan Lomax's regional collection of "choral songs, a shepherd's leave-taking, holiday and alms-seeking rites, songs for work and courtship, lullabies, a nonsense incantation, funeral laments, narrative ballads, and dance music," which are said to "vividly evoke a vanishing rural life when everyday activity was accompanied by song." Sounds a lot like noise to me. I honestly couldn't shut the music off soon enough.

Should you discover this disc, you will not find those heartwarming, lively "Italian favourites" we have come to know and love! Although the language spoken, for the most part, sounds Italian (I do speak some Italian), lots of wailing and whining and chatter prevails. Had I not known, I would have thought the music originated from a less familiar culture.

At one point on the ninth track, I could swear the female singer cleared her mouth of phlegm and snorted. Several times, in fact! And on track ten -- is that banging pots I hear?

Perhaps this is Italy's version of "mountain music" and in a folk music sub-genre all it's own. Whatever the distinction may be, these are not your typical Italian folk songs and certainly not treasures to my ear. This music is coarse, hard to chew on and definitely not as tasty as the many folk classics Italy has to offer.

While I still enjoy the Rounder Records label for its diverse musical offerings, from Raffi to its Celtic music compilations, I'll stick with the tried and true to satisfy my hunger for Italian music.

[ by Lynne Remick ]
Rambles: 2 March 2002

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