Cheap Wine. Mary and The Fairy.

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Blabber’n’Smoke has occasionally ventured into the world of American influenced Italian rock music with bands like Sacri Cuori and Lowlands proving that there’s a genuine feel for the sound in the boot heeled peninsula. Some time ago we spoke to Edward Abbiatti of Lowlands about this and he recommended a band, Cheap Wine and weirdly enough the very same crew recently reached out and sent us a copy of their latest album. A live affair, recorded in Pesaro, Italy it portrays the five piece band as a very accomplished bunch of rockers who inhabit that world frequented by the likes of Tom Waits and Nick Cave although they don’t have the gruffness of the former nor the grimness of the latter. In addition the band (named after an old Green On Red Song) have a definite touch of Steve Wynn’s Dream syndicate about them (Mr. Wynn has enjoyed playing live with them in the past) and there is a hint of E Street balladry, Velvet Underground streetsmarts and Waterboys’ epic sweep on some of the songs while their European heritage flickers into life here and there, a cafe come cabaret loucheness stalking them.

Mary and The Fairy (the title derived from two of the songs on the disc) features eight songs from the band’s back catalogue that they thought deserved to be captured for posterity, songs that in concert stretch out beyond the studio versions allowing the instruments space to shine. It’s a great recording, the sound crisp with only occasional audience applause to remind one that this is live music. The majority of the songs sit astride piano driven melodies with Marco Diamantini’s vocals well to the fore, the lyrics all in English, his accent only just noticeable, his voice slightly wearied. As the band stretch out there’s acres of fluid and fierce guitar soloing that adds fire to the songs making for some invigorating listening.

Three of the songs exceed the ten minute mark, all mini epics. Behind The Bars is a showcase for the excellent piano skills of Alesso Raffaelli with the song opening like a Springsteen jailhouse opera. The guitars flail away but the piano solo midway through is mesmerising. Mary opens with Diamantini describing the titular “queen of drop out street” as if he were Kevin Ayers or Lou Reed as the band creep around him creating an atmospheric milieu until a guttural guitar solo weighs in seven minutes into the song shredding away until the end. The Fairy Has Your Wings (for Valeria)  is another seesaw of intimate lyrics and gentle instrumentation interspersed with thunderous bursts of guitar fury with some excellent calm in the centre of the storm in the shape of another fine piano solo from Raffaelli.

Away from the Sturm und Drang of these longer numbers the band offer the effortless stroll of Based On Lies, the autumnal ballad of Dried Leaves and the nocturnal delights of the noirish waltz that is La Buveuse. The oddly named I Like Your Smell (you need to listen to the lyrics here) is a minor masterpiece with the addition of an accordion allowing the band to sound like an Italian version of The Felice Brothers.

For a live album this is a mighty fine listen even for anyone who isn’t aware of the original versions and for this reviewer a sweet invitation to delve into the band’s back catalogue.

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