From zero to fanboy in a few hours. The jiffy bag discharged the theatrically packaged CD onto my desk with no accompanying biog or info. Into the player with it – wow, this is special! Oh look, it’s produced by that fantastically talented and visionary Italian musician Daniele Sepe (fR161 and fRoots 7). Hmm, seems to be her third album. Google and YouTube wormholing ensues; previous albums located and ordered, as is another by the late great Sicilian singer Rosa Balistreri, who is clearly an influence. Excited Facebook conversations take place with Italian friends and music fans. Turns out there are acres of interviews with her (in Italian) on Ciro De Rosa’s Blogfoolk website… such are the ways of us easily distracted music obsessives.
Fingers crossed that I can put you into the same camp. Flo, it says here, is a “singer-songwriter, theatre actress and author”. I try hard to think of an Anglo equivalent to her big, heartfelt, straight-as-an-arrow but ultra-expressive voice; theatrically constructed songs with constant twists and turns and references to traditions; and Sepe’s imaginative, multi-instrumentally textured arrangements – and the nearest I can come up with would be Eliza Carthy and her Wayward Band. If they were Italian.
Influences cascade from everywhere. Afro-Brazilian percussion, circus sounds, North African oud, Greek hasapiko, a Milton Nascimento cover, a tribute to Mexico’s iconic Chavela Vargas (clearly from the same planet as Rosa Balistreri), brass band taranta (the title track), a Neapolitan love song, a spiky and angular guitar-driven rocker straight out of the Amparo Sanchez mould, and just to throw you off your plinth, a couple of pure Eurovision ballads (that’s if Eurovision had quality and taste in its arrangements), one with Sepe’s captivating soprano sax and another with gorgeous harp. But throughout, that voice and such huge imagination. I am in awe!
Hear a track on this issue’s fRoots 70 compilation.