I don’t really know how to classify Guano Padano’s Americana, but this is usually a good thing. There are so many factors here, so many reasons I can give to urge you to take notice of this record, but none of those really matter once you’ve heard the music. Guano Padano is an Italian group who play American folk. Comprising Alessandro Stefana, Danilo Gallo and Zeno de Rossi, together they create music on a dizzying range of instruments including steel guitar, banjo, raagini, omnichord, stylophonevibes, caravelle delux organ, vox super continental organ, eko tiger, trap set, bull buster and glockenspiel.
Their self-titled debut album from 2010 impressively featured Alessandro Alessandroni, Italian composer, multi-instrumentalist and old friend of Ennio Morricone. You might have heard Alessandroni’s whistling on Sergio Leone’s westerns. Their 3rd album titled ‘2’ featured Mike Patton singing on the track Prairie Fire and they’ve been championed by Calexico’s Joey Burns from the beginning. They’ve been described as a blend of “the timeless melodies of Morricone’s westerns and the pulsating surf-punk rhythms of John Zorn, the heartbreaking Tex Mex atmospheres Calexico’s ballads, and the free jazz experimentation and the psychedelia of Sixties”.
Joey Burns said of 2014’s Americana, “It’s the perfect soundtrack for a movie shot by Sergio Leone, Jim Jarmusch and Sofia Coppola together.” There’s heavy borrowing from Ennio Morricone’s body of work, complete with whistling and instrumentation but Americana, released on Ipecac, continues down other dusty roads to create a record that is perfectly self-contained.
The premise for the record was inspired by an underground and anti-fascist literary movement that happened in Italy between 1930-1940. Italian intellectuals rebelled against Mussolini’s stifling regime and began translating American literature at great risk. Essentially a concept album; Americana is a musical interpretation of that time, a foreign assimilation of the words and verses of Hemingway, Pavese, Steinbeck, Fante and Anderson. Americana contains a narrative, including spoken-word tracks recorded by author John Fante’s son Dan, that follows the life and work of Elio Vittorini . A maverick writer and translator, Vittorini edited a translated anthology of American literature called American, which was banned during Mussolini’s regime. Americana features Mike Patton, Marc Ribot, Gary Lucas and Chris Speed and sounds like a love letter written by Elio Vittorini to the wild west of America. This is musical story-telling at it’s best and unlike any other album you’ve ever heard.