Beppe Gambetta with various other artists

The Bluegrass Breakdown

Aug 1990, Cal. Bluegrass Assn

Italian Bluegrass?...
Yes, there is such a thing!
by Suzanne Denison

Being fairly new to Bluegrass music, I was not aware that it was a widespread as Italy...but I recently received a letter and tape entitled "Dialogs" from Beppe Gambetta of Genoa, Italy.

Beppe has a band called "Red Wine" which plays bluegrass in Italy. He writes a regular column on flatpicking for and Italian Bluegrass Magazine, has written several books on flatpicking, teaches guitar, gives workshops and concerts in Europe, and has been in the United States at least twice in the past couple of years playing and recording his tape.

During his visit to the United States in 1988, Beppe recorded musical "Dialogs" with various American musicians, including: Danny Weiss, Norman Blake, Joe Carr, Phil Rosenthal, Alan Munde, Mike Marshall, John Jorgenson, Dan Crary, Raul Reynoso, Rob Griffin, Charles Sawtelle and David Grier.

Each song on the tape is recorded with a different artist; in a different location...i.e. with Norman Blake at his farm in Rising Fawn, Georgia; Alan Munde in Levelland, Texas; Dan Crary in Santa Ana, California, etc.

Songs on the tape are: Slow Creek, Bully of the Town, Model 400 Buckboard, The Arkansas Traveller, Home Sweet Home, Siegel’s Candy Shop, Incredible, Gold Watch and Chain, Ragtime Annie, Scotland, The Storms are on the Ocean, Randy Lynn Rag, and All you Need is Love.

From the song list, you can imagine that this is not strictly a bluegrass recording, however, it is very pleasant to listen to, and each song seems to have a different feel...I suppose due to the different musicians playing.

Gambetta’s flatpicking style is excellent, and blends well with each of the other musicians. The first song on Side A (Slow Creek) is one that he wrote, and is very traditional in feeling. With musicians of this calibre, it is definitely worth listening to.

A feature of this tape that I have never seen before, is a booklet which describes the music on the tape, how it was recorded, and gives pictures and brief descriptions (in Italian and English) of each of the musicians. The recording is described as "Un viaggio attraverso l’America ‘dialogando’ con i maestri del flatpicking" or roughly translated "A voyage across America, communicating with the masters of flatpicking." In a day when liner notes are rare to non-existent, it is a pleasure to find so much information.

The tape is available from Kicking Mule Record, Inc. P.O. Box 158 Alderpoint, CA 95411-0158. You can contact Beppe Gambetta for booking or information on his flatpicking books by writing to: Beppe Gambetta, Via Peschiera 40/12, 16122 Genova, Italy.

Bluegrass Unlimited, May 1989

Beppe Gambetta

Hi, Folks! HF-005

Slow Creek/Bully of the Town/Model 400 Buckboard/The Arkansas Traveller/ Home Sweet Home/Siegel’s Candy Shop/ Incredible/Gold Watch and Chain/ Ragtime Annie/Scotland/The Storms are on the Ocean/Randy Lynn Rag/All you Need is Love.

All you flat-pickers out there can eat your hearts out! I’ll bet and number of you have dreamed of playing or recording with just one of the stars of the guitar like Norman Blake, Dan Crary, or David Grier. Well, Beppe Gambetta, an Italian picker who is the author of several books on flatpicking, didn’t just dream about this. Early in 1988, Gambetta spent about three weeks in the U.S. traveling around the country with a Sony digital recording system, playing tunes with all of the above, plus the likes of Danny Weiss of Skyline, Charles Sawtelle of Hot Rize, John Jorgenson of the Desert Rose Band, Phil Rosenthal, Joe Carr, Alan Munde, Mike Marshall, Raul Reynoso and Rob Griffin.

Flat-pickers, please stop and take a second to carefully insert your hanging tongues back into your mouths. Thank you. You may now read on.

Gambetta has released some of the recorded results of this whirlwind trip on a new album. Each track of this entirely instrumental LP finds him trading off licks with one of the aforementioned pickers. The album includes a variety of material ranging from traditional tunes to swing to classic bluegrass to modern.

The individual playing by Gambetta and friend is very fine, but the concept of this album is duet, or dialogs and the success or failure of the LP must be judged by how well the pickers play together. This album succeeds in a big way. Five or six of the cuts here are polished gems, while the others all have occasional great moments. Among the best are John Jorgenson’s bluegrass tune "Incredible," Gambetta’s slowed-down arrangement of "Salt Creek" called "Slow Creek," played with Danny Weiss, the swinging "Model 400 Buckboard" with Joe Carr playing an arch-top Gibson and the modern tune "Siegel’s Candy Shop" with Mike Marshall. Mike plays mandolin on the Beatles’ "All you Need is Love," which the pair originally played as a warmup and just for fun, but decided to keep. It’s really nice.

Overall this is a top-notch effort. The recording quality is very good, although the balance between the two instruments occasionally seems to be a bit off. To help identify the players, Gambetta has placed himself in the right channel ("canale di destra") on every cut. There are chatty notes about the recording of each tune in both Italian and English and the inner sleeve has pictures of and information about all the players. "Dialogs" is an excellent album highly recommended for all flat-pickers and anyone who loves bluegrass-based guitar music. (Hi, Folks! Records, Res. Sagittario, 133 Milano 2 - Via F.lli Cervi 20090 Segrate (MI) Italy)

In the Walnut Valley Festival list of artists: