Folk music is not just an American genre and American folk music is not confined to this country but is loved internationally.
I had the pleasure of discovering Matteo Podda, a native of Italy and multi-instrumentalist, singer and songwriter. Matteo began studying music in a conservatory at an early age until he received his diploma, after which he studied in college for a year before he moved to Paris where he began meeting musicians from all around the world. Matteo sings and plays guitar, harmonica, bouzouki and mandolin. He has also told me that he is working on an an album of all-original music. Follow his BandCamp page to discover his future releases!
In Paris, Matteo began to work on material for his first recorded album which he called La Ballata di Sacco e Vanzetti. The title is a nod and allusion to American folksinger Woody Guthrie’s album Ballads of Sacco & Vanzetti, which Smithsonian Folkways released in 1996. Matteo covers 5 of the songs from Woody’s album on this recording including “Old Judge Thayer,” “Red Wine,” “Root Hog and Die,” “Suassos Lane,” and “Two Good Men.”
Matteo Podda’s La Ballata di Sacco e Vanzetti is a most unique undertaking because he has translated Woody Guthrie’s songs from the English language into Italian.
Before communicating with Matteo, who is very well-spoken in English, I had not heard of Woody Guthrie’s album or Sacco and Vanzetti and although Woody Guthrie is known to have been a revolutionary thinker himself, I found it a very unusual undertaking on his part to have chosen to write about the two Italian-American anarchists, and it is sort of a full circle event for Matteo to translate Woody’s songs of their stories from their country of origin into their native language, and even to continue the history by writing an original song about Sacco and Vanzetti.
Nicola Sacco and Bartolomeo Vanzetti were Italian immigrants and anarchists tried and convicted of murdering a guard and a paymaster during the armed robbery of the Slater and Morrill Shoe Company in South Braintree, Massachusetts in 1920. The case was presided over by Judge Webster Thayer and later the Massachusetts State Supreme Court. News of the case spread and many believed that Sacco and Vanzetti were tried unfairly and protests sprang up around the world on their behalf. Nevertheless, all appeals were denied and the two were sentenced to death by electric chair in 1927. Investigations continued into the 1940’s and in 1977 Mayor Dukakis of Massachusetts issued a proclamation that Sacco and Vanzetti were tried unfairly.
“La Piena del Fume” is Matteo Podda’s personal insight into the story of Sacco and Vanzetti, he includes an original instrumental called “Lamento del Vicolo” which has the lackadaisy of a Louisiana bayou, and a cover of “Farewell, My Comrades” an Italian-Irish tune by Consuelo Breschi.
Dig deep, open your ears, and enjoy Matteo Podda’s La Ballata di Sacco e Vanzetti!
Written by Nina Ricci (Folklore Corner at www.ninariccimusic.com)
All tracks are the result of a free reworking of the album “Ballads of Sacco and Vanzetti” by Woody Guthrie (1960), except “Farewell, My Comrades” (C. Breschi), “Lamento del vicolo” and “La piena del fiume”(M.Podda).
Graphic design and illustration: Carmen Provitera and Giovanni Panzalorto of Desideri A(r)mati. Released December 10, 2015.
Musicians: Tiziano Pellegrino – acoustic guitar, slide guitar
Consuelo Nerea Breschi – violin, vocals
Laura Merciai – double bass
Matteo Podda – vocals, guitar, harmonica, bouzouki, mandolin.
Contributors: Riccardo Tesi – diatonic accordion in “Vecchio Giudice Thayer” and “Produci e Crepa;” Antonio Breschi – trumpets in “Lamento del vicolo” and “Due Bravi Uomini;” Lorenzo Forti – electric bass in “La piena del fiume” Vanni Breschi – snare in “Vino rosso.
Recorded and mixed by Gianfilippo Boni, Paso Doble Studio, Bagno a Ripoli.
Analogue Pass: Gherardo “Gez” Monti, 121 Decibel Studio, Antella. Mastering by Tommy Bianchi, White Sound Studio, Firenze.