Guano Padano - Americana

by Andy Brown Rating:8 Release Date:2014-11-03

Americana unfolds as a musically rich, literary soundtrack to some imagined cinematic classic; an American epic that conjures up Woody Guthrie’s land of dust-bowl blues and the hardships of the great depression. It comes as a surprise then to realise that Guano Padano, these purveyors of richly authentic Americana, are in fact Italian (the giveaway perhaps being their name).

The allusions to hard times and literary inspirations remain accurate, however, as Americana is directly inspired by the fascist-ruled Italy of the 30s and 40s. Unsurprisingly, under Mussolini, literature from the States was banned. Yet an underground, anti-fascist movements of the time went about translating the likes of Ernest Hemmingway and John Steinbeck. Such inspiring source material demands some pretty impressive music and Americana doesn’t disappoint.

Opening with the haunted desert blues of ‘The Hushed Universe’, we’re immediately transported to the America so richly rendered by the finest authors of the mid-twentieth century. Musically, the album moves between the brooding, lonesome soundtracks Ennio Morricone created for Sergio Leone’s classic westerns to the playful, Tex-Mex atmospherics of Calexico.

It’s perhaps clichéd to say so, but Americana is a real trip. Those concerned that the album would come across as po-faced and over-earnest needn’t have worried as Guano Padano have delivered a brilliantly diverse and exciting album. Between the sparser compositions you’ll find the drunken, racing banjos of ‘My Banjo Dog’ (a drinking song if ever there was one) and the strutting, going-out-west riffs of ‘Flem’s Circus’.

The album is predominantly instrumental, allowing the listener to compose their own cinematic accompaniment. When vocals do appear, as they do on the Tom Waits-esque ‘Dago Red’, they only add to the tapestry of characters, times and places conjured up over the albums duration.

‘Dago Red’ tells the story of struggling author, John Fante, a fantastic writer and the guy Charles Bukowski called his god. We’re told of a young man with a passion for writing, who was akin to “a ball of fire aimed at the sun” and who ardently sent off stories and hand-written letters to magazines. A snapshot of a time gone by and an open letter of appreciation to the likes of Fante.

Americana is a beautifully put together album. Guano Padano clearly have a real grasp on the art of storytelling as they lead us through both Italian and American backroads. There’s a sense of space and openness here, a sense of wanderlust that begins with the past and ends somewhere just beyond the horizon.

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