Review: Thelegati ‘Senza Paura’

When on his 1977 debut album Terra Mia (My Land), the Neapolitan singer songwriter Pino Daniele was solemnly singing in his native Neapolitan dialect; ‘Napule e’ mille culuri, Napule e’ mille paure, Napule e’ a voce de’ creature…Napule e’ nu sole amaro…Napule e’ ‘na carta sporca e nisciuno se n’importa’ (Naples is a thousand colours, Naples is a thousand fears, Naples is the voice of the children, Naples is a bitter sun, Naples is a dirty piece of paper of whom nobody cares). These sad, sentimental and heartfelt words were embodying a postcard of Naples, a picture that reflected the beating heart of a city with all its joy, sadness, wealth and poverty, which is also light heartedly depicted by the traditional mask, the Pulcinella.

Thelegati 'Senza Paura'

Pino Daniele’s Naples was running inside his veins. The way of living his city, already described in a more traditional way in the early ‘70s by La Nuova Compagnia Di Canto Polpolare, and by rock bands such as Osanna and Napoli Centrale, was handed down to bands of a political extraction like Zezi (they sing about workers and poor people’s problems), rappers 99Posse, the blues romanticism of Daniele Sepe and also the more relentless power trio in question, Thelegati. ‘We are not from Naples but from a small village at the foot of Vesuvius called Cercola. We are Vesuvians’, Thelegati vocalist and guitarist Danilo Di Fiore is keen to point out. They also like to express their inner feelings, their daily life with all its troubles, and similar situations they see in other people, through their songs that, like Pino Daniele, are sung in strict Neapolitan dialect.

You may wonder what on earth Thelegati means? The name was given to them by a friend because of their spurious and less ‘elegant’ way of playing. He used to tell them ‘Siete Tutti Legati’ (You’re All Tied Up), but there is more on their name to tell. The band was formed in 2013 as a four piece by three childhood friends as alongside Danilo Di Fiore is Stefano Pelosi (vocals/bass) and Ciro D’Ambrosio (drums) with keyboard player Rosario Morelli. They started out as a band with playing some roots blues tunes typical of American barrelhouse, so the other name given was the ‘The Blues Delegate‘, it’s like a pun, if you know what I mean.

Their debut album of veiny raw blues, Zitto chi sape ‘o juoco (Shut up who knows the game), was released in 2015 via Neapolitan label Full Heads that is sung and played in a way that sometimes makes you imagine the delta blues of Robert Johnson, Muddy Waters, or even one of the fathers of British blues Alexis Korner. The album also ranges musically into the rock blues of Albert Collins and Robert Cray, but also indulges in swing, jazz and rockabilly syncopated rhythms, punctuated with the magical touch by the loaded, almost metallic timbre of the keyboards reminding you those of legendary British keyboardist Brian Auger. The bluesy sound that characterized the band’s beginnings is put aside when their keyboard player decides to leave. There was a bit of a pause and perplexity which soon saw the band, now a three-piece, dealing with the primary influences of the three members that span from alt rock to punk to stoner rock.

a transcendental experimental post-rock gem…

So, armed with guitar, bass, drums and with not so clear ideas in mind, in terms of where to go sound wise, they start playing every evening in a rehearsal room helped by a bottle of Sambuca. ‘We stop the rehearsals when we’ve drunk all the bottle…’ recalls Danilo. When ready, they retreated to the recording studio in Laceno (an Italian lakeside hamlet in the Avellino province), and the recording made up their first EP as a power trio The Laceno Lake Sessions. It’s rough and ready, and although some songs, like Jolla, suffer from that initial bluesy spirit, here it is infused with a strong psycho stoner to break the bones. The Laceno Lake Session, released in 2017, reveals itself as an important calling card to their newly found sound.

They now know what’s in their mind and what they want to deliver, not only through their sound but also through their raw and nude lyrics. After this important and satiable experience as a power trio, they were now ready to head back in the rehearsal room to put down the base for their second recording. This took a while because of their daily work commitments, then Covid restrictions so frustration and discontent built up. But it’s never a dull moment for Thelegati, as the Covid restrictions started to loosen, they were soon back in the rehearsal room every single night laying down the ten songs that made their new album Senza Paura (Fearless), which sees on the production desk, the trusted Francesco Giuliano, who produced their previous EP. The album attracts the attention of Sicilian Paolo Naselli Flores who, apart from having his own pr company Unomundo, also runs a small label Urtovox. They are now in good hands.

Senza Paura turns out to be an album musically almost unpredictable. The sound delivered caught me by surprise because of some music genres I wouldn’t think they were accustomed to. The blending of music varieties is what makes a record worth listening to, and THIS surpassed that limit. There is a blend of psych and garage in songs like Fujetenne (Run Away), Parla Poco (Don’t Speak Too Much) and Fermo (Stop).

The reckless stoner rock of Pietre (Stones) and Luciano gives breathing space to the surprising and well-crafted ‘70s psych experimental blues of Ngopp O Lago (Near The Lake) and Luntano (Far Away). But the top-notch of Senza Paura is hidden on the final track Terra Nera (Black Earth), a transcendental experimental post-rock gem. It’s an epic eight-and-a-half-minute instrumental ode to their beloved Naples. A rough, colourful diamond that gives the whole album the praise it deserves.

These three guaglioni from Cercola, with their Senza Paura, have placed their little village on the world map of rock and roll.

Label: Ortovox Records
Band Links: Facebook | Instagram

Scribed by: Domenico ‘Mimmo’ Caccamo