Italy has its own Piedmont region, and fortunately it also has its own purveyors of (American) Piedmont blues. One such is Roberto Menabo. Although he has a long list of musical influences, it is folk and blues that come shining through on his third album, "Il Profumo Del Vinile."
Menabo lays his cards on the table immediately with the first of nine originals, "Slawitz e il Treno." A fantastic train blues instrumental, it makes it readily apparent that Menabo is a highly accomplished guitarist. He also knows the blues, as demonstrated by his wide choice of covers. The first of these is also a train related song, a version of Arthur Crudup's "Mean Old Frisco," which owes much to Little Walter. The almost frenetic harp is provided by Gianandrea Pasquinelli.
Charlie Patton references crop up in three places. The first is "Dockery Blues," which takes its title from the cotton plantation where Patton first took up guitar in 1907. It is a very moody piece, which opens with some eerily atmospheric slide guitar. The second is "Farrell Blues," recorded by fiddler Henry Sims, with Patton on guitar, and the final link is on the penultimate track "Mr Charlie in Chicago" where the Mr Charlie is Patton.
Menabo employs horns judiciously on several of the covers. They always manage to strike the right mood, being appropriately doleful on "St James Infirmary," and adding an extra dimension to "Diddy Wah Diddy." He even brings in a fiddle player and a flautist for "When (sic) the Circle Be Unbroken." Although Menabo's singing is restricted to the covers, with the exception of the aforementioned "Mr Charlie in Chicago," he possesses a
good voice, with near perfect English intonation.
The album has many highlights, mostly in the shape of the self-penned instrumentals. They all demonstrate Menabo's talent as a first-rate fingerpicker and slide guitarist. Many of the tunes are very catchy too. The outstanding "Sunrise On The Tallahatchie"--possibly my favorite track of the year--is beautiful and brilliant, and lingers long in the memory.
The atmospheric slide guitar on "Alba," with its gospel tinge, also paints vivid pictures. In fact, right the way through to the closing "Barbiere Nadir Rag" there is plenty to admire.
"Il Profumo Del Vinile" is a delightful album. Roberto Menabo is a very fine guitarist, with a good voice, and writes some excellent tunes. The liner notes for the CD are in Italian--go buy yourself an Italian-English dictionary if necessary--but that does not detract from the quality of the album. "Il Profumo Del Vinile" is an album well worth tracking down, particularly by fans of quality acoustic blues.
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