Enthusiasm for blues, old-timey and other American roots music has led not only to audiences worldwide, but also individuals and bands playing such music. One such group of musicians hails from Milan, Italy, Veronica & the Red Wine Serenaders. They have an eponymously (self-titled) recording on Totally Unnecessary Records that is a mix of old times blues, string-band, country, and hokum by a group that is a mix of string band and traditional jazz in its instrumentation. Veronica Sbergia fronts the band with her vocals, ukulele, kazoo and washboard and among the remaining musicians, the most prominent is Max De Bernardi who plays a variety of guitars including resophonic, as well as mandolin and contributes some vocals. Alessandra Cecola rounds the core of the band on bass with others adding dobro, harmonica, piano and clarinet to various tracks.
The recording opens with a nice rendition of the Mississippi Sheik’s “Bootlegger’s Blues,” with a nice vocal and some nice guitar and mandolin from De Bernardi. Miss Sbergia has a lovely voice and delivers this song in what this listener views as a more successful interpretation than pretentious rendition on the recent Mississippi Sheiks tribute CD. It’s followed up buy the hokum-ish “You Drunk Too Much,” with lively cdlarinet and stomp down piano. “Nobody Knows But Me,” is a nice performance of a number that sounds like it was from the songbook of the Blue Yodeler, Jimmie Rodgers. with some nice dobro. “Busy Bootin’” is a skittlish number with De Bernadi handling the “you can knock but can’t come in” type of hokum, with twin slide guitars and a feel suggestive of R. Crumb & the Cheap Suit Serenaders. I have no idea of the origins of “Lullaby of the Leaves,” which has an Hawaiian tinge. “Me, Myself and I,” is a vocal duet with nice slide guitar and a skittle feel (including a kazoo solo) that gives this song a different tone than the famous Billie Holiday recording. “Doggone My Soul,” is a nice handling of a traditional blues with the ensemble coming of as a jug band, while Hank Williams’ “Lovesick Blues,” shows more of the country side of this group. “Mr. Ambulance Blues,” is a classic blues styled performance again with clarinet, “You May Leave (But This Will Bring You Back),” is more jug band style with lively kazoo, and “I Wanna Go Back To My Little Grass Shack,” is a lively Hawaiian number. Among the remaining numbers are a couple of numbers from the era of classic blues, “I Wish I Could Shimmy Like My Sister Kate,” and a live performance of Bessie Smith’s “Good Ole Wagon.” While one would be hard pressed to describe this recording as deep blues or roots, it is a lively, entertaining disc that is fun to listen to. I do not know where one can obtain this in North America, but Veronica has a web presence at myspace (http://www.myspace.com/veronicasbergia) and on facebook (http://www.facebook.com/pages/Veronica-The-Red-Wine-Serenaders/129165736557).
For purposes of FTC regulations, I received the CD for review from Veronica & the Red Wine Serenaders.