This is one of those “not quite sure how to assess” records that I’ve ended up really liking, but I’m still not sure exactly why. Sergio shares with at least one other contemporary singer-songwriter I could mention a potentially unprepossessing name and a fairly light-textured voice, both features that tend to give a deceptive impression of the seriousness of his writing, for a start. And it’s not easy to pinpoint his stance – or take on the world – from just this angle. But let’s start with the biog – he was born in Hull and subsequently raised in Sicily, where he’s now based. This, of course, gives no clue as to what to expect from his music – but in the end I feel he seems to strike a curiously likeable balance between delicacy of expression and a certain theatricality, a well-developed sense of melodrama.
Sergio’s musical influences are not necessarily worn on his sleeve, although his style of delivery can sometimes be quite contiguous with this. He does have a sympathy with folk tradition (Wollow contains a quite sweet-toned version of The Barley And The Rye), yet he may also call to mind a busking s/s (Battle For Attention), or a plaintively minimalist, if eccentric folkster (Reason, Pennies), or a determined thespian (Jester). But he can also persuade you there’s more to his art, as on the disturbing Naked and the time-honoured narrative ballad Century. Then again, we find beating, pulsing world rhythms invading An Exaggerated Song and Beauty Of Dirt (and Jester for that matter), and – most astounding of all perhaps – the album’s closing track is a stirring, ululating a cappella rendition of Silencio, a composition by Argentine singer Pedro Aznar. The album can thus be seen as a kind of metaphorical journey through the places, sounds and colours that have most influenced Sergio, from early village life to his Sicilian upbringing and holidays in the South American Andes, finally to the city suburbs where he’s spent some of his adult life.
I’d venture to suggest that Sergio’s musical personality grows on the listener, and even three or four plays don’t quite reveal the measure of his talent; and that’s a good thing, of course. He’s certainly a skilled multi-instrumentalist (guitars, charango, piano, Bolivian flute, percussion and synth) and arranger, and he makes good use of three guest musicians – Fabio Rizzo on dobro and lap steel, Federico Gueci on double bass and Donato di Trapani on synth – on three of the album’s eleven tracks. All of which gives rise to a rather individual sound world and approach, one that’s ever so slightly challenging. Sergio’s something of an enigma, sure – but an extremely interesting one.
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