Guano Padano Guano Padano

[Important ; 2009]

Styles: imaginary Westerns, surf, jazzy
Others: Ennio Morricone, Calexico, Friends of Dean Martinez

Led by guitarist/multi-string instrument hot-shot Alessandro Stefana, Guano Padano is an Italian trio rounded out by Danilo Gallo on bass and piano/organ and Zeno De Rossi on drums. On their self-titled debut, these guys naturally do the heavy lifting, but each of the 10 tracks is supplemented with guests who sweeten the pot an awful lot. Beefheart alumnus Gary Lucas adds dobro to “A Country Concept,” while Alessandro Alessandroni, the man responsible for those amazing whistles in Ennio Morricone’s Western soundtracks, pushes air through pursed lips on a few songs. GP are nominally an instrumental group (with occasional whistle), but a cover of Hank Williams’ “Ramblin’ Man” finds 65-year old Italian pop singer Bobby Solo handling vocal duties.

Ennio Morricone is the most obvious reference point for the album, and not just on the tracks where Alessandroni is featured. String arrangements and brass also add to the soundtrack vibe, and Stefana’s guitar tone really brings to mind the twang and reverb of Morricone’s electric guitars. But he probably took that sound from surf music, which GP also draws from — Duane Eddy looms large here. Contemporarily, the music is more reminiscent of the imaginary soundtrack music of Friends of Dean Martinez or Calexico, who try hard to conjure images of desert landscapes passing by from the vantage point of a car window: themes for an imaginary Western road trip.

There are other touchstones here, too, from the more obvious country homage via the Williams cover to what sounds like a quote from Blind Willie Johnson’s “Dark Was the Night, Cold is the Ground” that Lucas slips into “A Country Concept.” GP are also likely fans of Lounge Lizards and John Zorn’s kitschier work.

If this review seems like little more than a roll call of artists Guano Padano are reminiscent of, well, it’s all but unavoidable. They’re unquestionably great musicians, and this music is fun, but it’s a bit too much of a pastiche. And, frankly, it seems a little tame and predictable sitting next to Important Records’ usual releases. In fact, the overall NPR-ish feel of the album, with its middlebrow reference points and middle-age-friendly grooves, might be off-putting to many Tiny Mix Tapes readers. But it’s good to have something like this in your collection, for your more subdued mixers, Sunday mornings coming down, or cross-country drives. And if you don’t own or have tired of their influences, Guano Padano will work just fine.

Links: Guano Padano - Important

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