Canzoniere, the new album by Canzoniere Grecanico Salentino (CGS), adroitly pulls off a tricky balancing act: adapting the Italian band’s unique, folk-based style to Western pop. The album’s cover art, a photograph of a Coca-Cola bottle filled with tomato sauce, is a visual metaphor for CGS’ new music. As CGS leader Mauro Durante notes, the Coke bottle “is a container – the Western pop song – but we put our own homemade sauce into that container.”
The album, whose title is Italian for “songbook,” comprises 11 original compositions and one traditional song, recorded in New York and Lecce, the band’s home base in the southern Puglia region. Lecce is considered the capital of the Salento, a sub-region of Puglia famous for its music, dance. Canzoniere remains faithful to pizzica, the rhythm-powered Salento idiom that has made CGS an internationally acclaimed recording and touring ensemble. But Canzoniere unmistakably is a departure from previous CGS albums and a new chapter in the band’s history. Here, pizzica merges with club-ready dance numbers, soulful ballads and pop.
Some CGS fans might be surprised by the big choruses on tracks like “Moi” and “Lu Giustacofane.” But as Durante points out, in writing those numbers he was inspired by the great tradition of Italian and especially Neapolitan songs, with their indelible melodies and choruses.