The making of Zabala: Episode 18 - David Immerglück

David Immerglück needs no introduction. This legendary member of one of the most famous bands in the world - the Counting Crows - plays in “Crossing Muddy Waters” by John Hiatt, one of my all-time favorite records. A dozen years ago, I fell in love with “Avenue C”, a record by an English man (from Leicester) in New York: James Maddock, so I decided to go and find him in order to get him to tour in Italy. He was going to play at the Rockwood Music Hall the night I arrived and, at the time, he was living in a Bowery flat. To my great surprise I found at his place the great Immy and I sat on the coach with him strumming the guitar, while the water was boiling for the pasta.

Those spaghetti were all it took to persuade James and David to come to tour in Italy in the next months. Later that night, I was the opening act at Maddock’s gig. Immy joined me and we played my introduction to “It’s all over now baby blue” by Bob Dylan. That was the beginning of a great friendship. Immy came to play in Italy many times with James and even when he came touring with the Counting Crows he would give up his 5 star hotel room just to be with us.

We’ve got a common passion for cooking and Elena gives her best when Immy comes to visit.  Long story short, we hosted at our place his 50th birthday surprise party that they had organized from Los Angeles.

Immy plays in three tracks of my record: the mandolin in “Maya dei girasoli” and  “Tutti i pesci del mare” and electric guitar, a Fender Jazzmaster with tremolo,  in “È solo un fiore”.

It took me many years to finish this record and these tracks were recorded in 2015 at the Edac Studios in Fino Mornasco.

The making of Zabala: Episode 17 - Raffaele Kohler

She described Italy as "a source of inspiration for the world" due to its balcony musical sessions. It was the 18th of March 2020 when the legendary American folk singer-songwriter Joan Baez sent her uplifting message of love and hope to Italy.

The United States were looking at Italy as we were looking at China at the beginning of the pandemic, unaware or maybe also as a way to dispel the fact that the coronavirus would hit there too within a couple of weeks. What first  moved Joan Baez was actually the video of Raffaele Kohler, a trumpeter playing behind the grating of a window in Milan. Those images were circulating the world, were being played all over the news, in a moment of greatest uncertainty and fear, when the whole country of Italy had stopped.

Every evening at 6 pm, Raffaele Kohler would play his trumpet from his window in Via Fauché, near Corso Sempione, in Milan. He played for the whole block, but also for the hundreds of people who connected through his Facebook and Instagram live streaming.

Those hundreds became thousands, after his performances were broadcasted for the main TV and radio channels. Raffaele Kohler has a surname that reveals German great-great-grandparents, but he is Milanese to the core.  «The trumpet has an archaic and nostalgic sound which is always capable of bringing people together».  And that’s exactly what happened: from his ground floor apartment, Raffaele one day began to play the city’s anthem. «The thing that moved me was that, little by little, people started to join: the Japanese pianist from the next floor, then the elderly lady from upstairs, then whole street joined to form a sort of polyphonic concert in the making».

During the lockdown, Radio 24 broadcast every day starting with a call with Raffaele Kohler who would play his trumpet on the phone.

While the main Italian brands were hasting to realize commercials on the emotional wave of the dramatic moment, Barilla chose Sofia Loren as its testimonial and the actress said she would have accepted on condition that "the trumpeter who moved the world" would be part of it, as well.

The Busker Festival in Ferrara had Raffaele Kohler and Gianna Nannini as godfather and godmother of this year's event. In October last, Raffaele played "O mia bela Madunina" at the San Siro stadium before the Inter-Milan derby match and the Italian national anthem at the Grand Prix in Monza.

He brought joy and hope and he did it a poetic way and with tenderness during a tragic moment in history that has turned our lives upside down.  He  shared a message of unity and continues to do so on the streets, in  the clubs, in the theaters, wherever he meets other musicians or there’s someone willing to listen. Raffaele is a hero but even more than his talent, what I admire of him the most is innocence. That ability to have fun and enchanting at the same time,  without barriers. Unreservedly. He is a true revolutionary, a friend and an extraordinary musician that I would always chose to have by my side in battle, at dinner, on stage. And obviously, on this record. On his birthday (March 17th, Saint Patrick’s Day!) Raffaele released a new album with his Swing Band, "Una Sera in Balera", only four months after the release of "Rondini". Two closely linked albums that are a true burst of fun and give you a mad desire to dance on each note.  I also decided to release my record on my birthday and Raffaele certainly couldn't miss this party and there he is, with his mariachi trumpet on “Gabriela Y Chava Moreno” together with Scarlet Rivera and Joel Guzman, and in a beautiful nocturne in "Maya dei Girasoli" the video of which was realized by his partner Bettina, a fantastic illustrator. Hopefully, a children's book will be made from it. But the song in which all the power of Raffaele's trumpet was unleashed is "C'è", where he is accompanied by his long-time collaborator Luciano Macchia. The Trumpet and the trombone go together well, hand in hand with Flaviano Braga's accordion for a surprising horn section that makes us fly like a summer on a Caribbean beach in Mexico or on the streets of New Orleans. This song will make you dance and will give you goosebumps as Raffaele and Luciano begin their solo.  This record comes full circle as almost all the crazy musicians involved in it, have already played with Raffaele at some point.  And because it was natural for me to invite him at every chance I got. He  often came as a surprise, last minute,  and you could hear the sound of his trumpet approaching the stage before him, as he had started playing from the street and the concert had already begun. That’s how he does it: he arrives from the backstage, or parading through an enraptured audience. Other times, as he did with David Bromberg, he had the role of arranger of an entire horn section. What drives me crazy about Raffaele is his talent, his professionalism and his joy. All these gifts are perfectly in harmony, directly proportional to each other. Raffaele’s trumpet and smile are one of those things that make this world more beautiful. Enjoy life, comrade!

The making of Zabala: Episode 16 - The Shelter Recording Studio & Claudia Buzzetti

In the previous episode, I introduced to you Bocephus King’s latest album: "The Infinite & The Autogrill VOL 1", which we recorded in Italy in December 2019. The story behind it is that I had placed an ad looking for an isolated house in the countryside where to record. One of the first to respond was Matteo Tovaglieri. "Hello, come and see my studio! I'm not in the countryside but there’s a nice wooden attic and plenty of space. I’m sure you’ll like it." We immediately fell in love with The Shelter Recording Studio in Meda and Matteo proved to be a perfect partner to support and quickly translate all the Bocephus King's musical ideas. A super session followed and, in a few days, we finished the record which was finally released in February. Unfortunately, the tour was interrupted in the thick of it by Covid 19, just in time to make an appearance on Luca Barbarossa’s show for the Italian national channel RAI. We then recorded one last song at Matteo's Studios: "She Moves On" by Paul Simon and we did that for fun and because  Bocephus King couldn't wait to return to that studio with those musicians, that are now the Borderlobo band: Max, Angie, Alex, Raffaele and another surprising artist I haven't told you about yet: Claudia Buzzetti. Claudia was the last to come to the studio and she sang nonstop from morning to night, on all the tracks on the record. They weren't just choruses. In a few songs, her voice was on the same level as the lead voice, in others, she orchestrated up to six, seven different harmonization at the same time. We had already noticed Claudia's talent during her appearance at the Townes Van Zandt Festival. An angelic voice, ancient and with Emmylou Harris-like modulations that thrilled us fans of the genre. Jono Manson and Jaime Michaels immediately noticed her too and asked her to take part to their remote recordings. Of course, she didn’t go unnoticed by Paolo Ercoli, who involved her in a live project. Chris Buhalis invited her to play in America. Bocephus, who was also part of the Festival, after listening to her singing in the dressing room, dragged her onto the stage with him to sing "If I Needed You". He then took her on tour to Barcelona, ​​and finally, to Matteo's studio to perform in all the songs of the record. Obviously, I also realized how good Claudia was, therefore she is the only female voice on "Andrea Parodi Zabala". Despite being very young, Claudia Buzzetti has already had many experiences in jazz, songwriting, folk, rock and she is about to debut with her first EP. For my son Woody, Claudia Buzzetti is Hermione Granger and it’s  no coincidence that her excellent curriculum includes the "Harry Potter-Film concert series" a tour with the Italian Cinema Orchestra, with which she performed at the Arcimboldi di Milan and at the MGM Theater in Macau, China.

The Shelter Recording Studio has become a second home for all of us Borderlobo and for Bocephus King. And a strong bond was immediately created with Matteo Tovaglieri. During the first lockdown, we invented together a web radio, managing to continue working and keeping in contact with many musicians, near and far. This pandemic has taken a lot from us, but we realized that distances can be shortened. The nearest town became the farthest, unreachable, but when the concept was reversed, Austin and Nashville came back at my border again. This partly pushed me to finally finish the record I had started 7 years ago in Texas. There were moments in the past in which I was so close, but then, in a way or another, I got always absorbed into a thousand other obligations.  In 2015, I started working on the project again at Davide Lasala's Edac Studio where we recorded David Immerglück from Counting Crows and I probably would have recorded at the Downotown Studio in Pavia owned by my friend Guido Tronconi, if only it had been closer. Instead, those songs have lurking behind my closed drawers for all these years, something like wine aging in a barrel. Now they are mature at the best time to be released and Matteo captured all their magic. The icing on the cake was the mastering made at the YesMaster Studio in Nashville by James DeMain. Many of my favorite records from John Hiatt to Guy Clark, from Todd Snider to Mary Gauthier were realized there.

The making of Zabala: Episode 15 - Cantouver & Bocephus King

Today we’ll talk about Bocephus King and to do that I’ll start by quoting part of the article that my journalist friend Alfredo Del Curatolo wrote about my album “Le Piscine di Fecchio”. Bocephus King also produced “Soldati” and over the years we strengthened our bond and our collaboration has resulted in many different projects in which our roles have often been reversed.  

At some point, I became his producer and we found ourselves on the stage of the Ariston Theater in Sanremo to sing Guccini and in Giacomo Leopardi's house to talk about De Andrè with Countess Olimpia and to improvise his poem “L’Infinito” in English in the Recanati cathedral. All this ended up on his album “The Infinite & The Autogrill VOL 1”, since two other chapters of this musical journey are to follow.

How couldn't I have Bocephus play on this record? He performs in the style of John Fogerty with a  fender telecaster in the song  “C’è” and then he arranges in his own style the closing track “Ninna Nanna del Maggio”. He plays the vibraphone, percussion, sings and whistles the melody, involving the Persian musician Ali Razmi on the setar.

I could write an entire novel about the thousand stories and anecdotes of our friendship which began in the fish restaurant Nuovo Yacht in San Siro street, Milan. Mario, the owner, was very young, younger than me, we were both just over our twenties. We were sitting next to each other at my city’s the legendary pub All’una&35circa. Both, like everyone else present, were struck by Bocephus King&The Rigalattos. A few days after, Bocephus and I were invited to dinner at the restaurant. Eventually, a guitar appeared from some table, I grabbed it and I played Jamie, AKA Bocephus King, my songs. He invited me to go to Canada in September. «I am getting married. Come to my wedding and I'll produce your record». I ‘ll leave the rest of this story to Freddie Del Curatolo’s who - speaking of travels and dreams - has been living in Malindi for many years.


Just imagine what Vancouver and Fecchio could ever have in common.

The first is a large Canadian cosmopolitan city, where you can breathe the "good" America, that of rock, cult movies, social commitment but also the pride of the farmers and the sacred desire to have fun, without necessarily having to kidnap a school bus or shed blood aroud. The second is a cluster of houses on the outskirts of Cantù, in the Como area. An agglomeration from the movie 1900 by Bertolucci with rural courts not far from the newly built condos. Green meadows at risk of syringes and card games circles, tranquility and boredom melt together in a portion of Brianza not everybody is proud to belong to.

Geographically speaking, the proximity of the two places to the closed sea could be brought into question. The great American lakes vs. the Lario Lake. Niagara Falls vs. the Devil's Bridge in Lezzeno, Point Roberts vs. Carate Urio. Politically speaking, one could speak of Cantù's proximity to Switzerland, which is to Italy what Canada is to the USA.

But more simply, Fecchio and Vancouver have dreams in common.

And it was the muse of fantasy, of adventure, even before that of notes, that put Bocephus King and Andrea Parodi on the same path.

The first is Jamie Perry, a big Canadian boy who has chosen a high-sounding name and a blues surname to remedy an adolescence made up of too many myths adored, but never flattered and a too whimsical a character for the country of bears and rangers. The second is a young singer-songwriter who would have bet indifferently with Jesus Christ, Celentano ot John Lennon that nowadays in Italy you can make music without compromise and without being forced to move to Milan, Rome or New York. A Townes Van Zandt without alcohol, a Francesco De Gregori without snobbery, who might have been the top half-winger in a professional football team, had he not decided to confine most of his imagination in the grates of a pentagram and his desire to adventure in the ink of a pen. Jamie witnessed his peers praising Ac/Dc and getting excited by the country anthems, while was writing rock ballads, dreaming of composing music like Morricone. Andrea lost bets and looked for his America in the eyes and the words of the folk-singers who came to play in his area, but he was not ashamed to learn by heart "Non all'amore né al denaro né al cielo" by De Andrè.

It was Destiny's fondness for surprise potions and understandment at first sight that brought the two musicians together.

It all happened when King started having success outside the national borders and Andrea started playing his songs in the city piazza to an audience who didn’t necessarily have a Como license plate. Thus a solid collaboration was born, a musical-cultural bromance that gave equal weight to rock, country and to Italian historical songwriters. A bromance that led a slightly intimist minstrel from Brianza to consume sushi at midnight in the thousand lights of North America and an eclectic wanderer to find himself in a farmhouse in Orsenigo. Both here and there: multi-colored lights, a pub with dark beer and apple syrup pancakes, sushi bars and big jeeps on streets that are wider than they are long. On the radio a song by Lucinda Williams is greeted with emphasis by the dee-jay. Of course, we are in Fecchio! Instead, look here: a flowerbed used as a soccer field, the crumpled newspaper on the formica table of the tobacco bar shop, an elderly couple leaving the parish, the noise of souped-up scooters and women standing hunched over their shopping bags. There is no doubt: we are here again, we’re in Vancouver. In concert, Andrea plays "The Tennessee Killer" as if he was that same child, tumbling into the South Eastern cornfields.  Just close your eyes while he sings. And think about where you are. It is a magical place, where there are no distances and commonplaces, only emotions, friendship and a strange, dreamlike and - at the same time - so realistic (almost neo-realist) conception of life.

This place is called "Cantouver" and they tell me it really exists.


The making of Zabala: Episode 14 - Borderlobo

There’s one thing I’ve always envied the bands for: the goals, efforts and achievements of a band are shared. The life of a singer-songwriter is instead often lonely, even though - to me -  music has always been about sharing. When I’m playing a gig and I see someone in the audience holding an instrument, I’ll certainly find a way to get them on stage. Which happens also when I’m recording an album. It's like a big party, a dinner where you can invite all your friends over. That’s how a stellar cast of international musicians has miraculously been put together for my new record.  However, I was really missing being in a band so Borderlobo was born last year, at a time when the idea of ​​finishing this album was a long way off. Some of my songs ended up in the Borderlobo repertoire along with covers by Los Lobos and Fabrizio De Andrè, revisited in tex mex sauce.

I am not the Borderlobo frontman. Alex Kid Gariazzo, who’s a beast at guitar, also sings, sometimes.  I've known him for many years. I remember one of my very first concerts, at the Mambo in Piateda, in the Valtellina area, with Alex and Davide Buffoli. Alex was already a shockingly good guitarist and played with the Treves Blues Band. He carried the important legacy of guitarists like Paolo Bonfanti and Gnola. They called him “Kid” because he was a young, prodigy kid. He’s still got that kid look, especially when he smiles and  bursts with joy each time he plays. And in spite of the many experiences he has had, like playing at the Circus Maximus in Rome as opening act for Bruce Springsteen and the Counting Crows, he’s not jaded at all and has still got  that fresh enthusiasm. Alex is one of  those musicians and friends who have been closest to me in the recent times and our friendship was cemented  also thanks to Borderlobo in which we have included Angie, his partner and an amazing bassist. Angie plays in the song Se Vedessi la Baia Ora, together with Alex and David Bromberg on the slide. The Borderlobo drummer is the great Max Malavasi who plays percussion on Gabriela Y Chava Moreno in a way that makes you feel in a Mexican cantina by the Rio Grande. "I played the heavy artillery. Glasses, spoons, and I smashed a  glass bottle”, he said. I have been working with Max for many years. He has performed with many of the songwriters I have brought to Italy. He is a pillar of Bocephus King's band and I am proud of having taken part to the Sanremo Tenco Award with him, just as I am very proud of Max's collaborations with Carrie Rodriguez, Larry Campbell, James Maddock. On my record, all of them are like streams joining and flowing together.   

To play tex mex music you need an  accordion and I am lucky enough to know one of the greatest of all: Flaviano Braga. He’s also a friend. We have been playing together for a lifetime and shared the first gigs away from home. I particularly remember those concerts on the Michelangelo Square ramps in Florence and in a vineyard on the Langhe hills, in the Piedmont region. At the time, Flaviano was already top notch. He was touring Japan with a Flamenco company. In spite of being very busy playing, he never quit his job. Every morning he wakes up at dawn to go and clean the streets.  This is one of the many romantic aspects that makes him even more special, because he really could play with just anyone, at any level. On my record, Flaviano plays in the song C’è in which his accordion embroiders a riff together with the horn section. This is one of the most spirited and  cheerful songs on the CD. On  the pedal steel guitar, dobro and mandolin we’ve got Paolo Ercoli, another essential travel companion in the recent years. We met for the first time at a Kevin Welch concert and we started playing together straight away. Paolo, with his American style, proved to be above all the perfect partner for many songwriters I brought to Italy. Paolo used to work as a concierge in a luxury hotel in Milan. One day he called me and asked: "Andrea, if I quit tomorrow will you find me enough concerts so I can support myself?"

“Paolo, don't do it! I will try to make you play as much as possible, but don't do it!”, was my answer.

He had actually already quit. The path of the musician is not easy, but - certainly - Paolo has lived incredible experiences over the years. He is one of the best and most consummate musicians on these American instruments that very few can play in Italy. He’s a sort of dobro ambassador, instrument with  he plays a beautiful solo on C'è outro. In Maya dei Girasoli he plays the pedal steel.

Another pillar of the band is our trumpeter Raffaele Kohler, but I will talk about him in the next few days, in an episode entirely dedicated to him.

The making of Zabala: Episode 13 - Neilson Hubbard

Today, April 23, 2021, Digging up the Scars, the new album by Nashville singer-songwriter and producer Neilson Hubbard, is being released! An epic and intimate, symphonic and simple record that revolves around an existential and personal question: What do you believe in?

A question, a plea that could be addressed to a lover or perhaps to the universe and which becomes even more profound in these suspended times we are experiencing. Hubbard sings in a mature voice and displays  his best skills as a producer, and he’s definitely a master of it.  Everyone in Nashville seems to want to work with him and Dave Cobb, right now.

The sound is forged on the orchestration of the acoustic guitar with the strings and with the suggestive pedal steel played by Juan Solorzano that elevates the songs to a dreamy dimension. Neilson’s inseparable friend Ben Glover, the singer-songwriter from Belfast with whom he and and Joshua Britt founded the band The Orphan Brigade, also took part in the making of this album. Another side project of his is the cult band Strays Don't Sleep  together with Matthew Ryan. Furthermore, Neilson and Joshua Britt run the Neighborhoods Apart company through which they  have realized  music videos for  artists such as John Prine, Jason Isbell, Lucinda Williams and The Blind Boys of Alabama.

I met Neilson thanks to the Orphan Brigade and I literally fell in love with their musical and cinematographic visions and I shared with them one of the most beautiful and intense projects in the recent years. We made an entire concept album, Heart of the Cave, right in the underground caves of Osimo in the Marche region in Italy.  Sooner or later, I'd like to make an entire album produced by Neilson and as per advise of my friend Samuele, I let him entirely produce one song. Not just a random song. I entrusted Neilson with the most cinematic and surreal ballad on the record.

Ballads have the ability to concentrate in a few minutes stories that could only be told in a movie. I am very fascinated by this form of writing, just think of those incomparable examples like Pancho & Lefty and Il Bandito e il Campione. Eric Taylor was a master of writing this kind of ballads. I remember the night I played “Brasilein one of the legendary Townes Van Zandt Festival after parties at the Amandla Pub. Luigi Grechi was there and also was my friend Samuele, who fell in love with the song; I would dedicate it to him every time I played it in a concert and one of his dreams was that one day I would have Neilson Hubbard produce it. No sooner said than done. Neilson organized a session in Nashville with Eamon McLouglin on violin and Juan Solorzano on pedal steel. Then he created a surreal journey, shrouded in mystery, from the port of Livorno to the port of Rio De Janeiro. The journey of a man who decides to start a new life in a distant land, but who will have to return to Italy, in a prison in Verona: the past always comes knocking. But it is for that land, so deeply engraved, tattooed inside of him, that his cellmates and warders called him Brazil, Brasile. I can't wait for you to listen to it, but now make sure you don't miss Neilson Hubbard's amazing new album: Digging Up the Scars (Appaloosa Records / IRD) out today!

The Making of Zabala: Episode 12 - Tim Lorsch

Like the accordion, the violin is an instrument that I love and that I like imagining in people’s attics. Those are instruments that evoke stories. Uncle Tino, my great-grandfather’s brother, emigrated to America, but left his violin behind, which was eventually found in an attic in Valtellina. The violin means memories and especially Tim Lorsch’s one.

Tim is musician from Nashville who orchestrated my song È Solo Un Fiore. We spoke on the phone in the past few weeks and he shared his story with me and his powerful emotions. His Jewish family, escaped from Nazi Germany in the late 1930s. Tim is the first Lorsch to be born in America. In 2016, a suitcase was found in a small antique shop in Czech Republic. That suitcase miraculously got to Nashville. There was a name engraved in the inside, that of Julius Israel Lorsch. Julius was Tim's great-uncle who had been deported to a concentration camp. That suitcase carries within it his family story and tells about the saddest pages in history. In the early part of the 20th century, before the Holocaust, Germany was one of the safest places in the world for Jews. Tim's family comes from the same milieu that birthed Sigmund Freud, Gustav Mahler, Albert Einstein. At that time, Germany was a paradise for Jews, then, in less than a decade, everything changed. Tim decided to share this story by creating The Suitcase a multimedia show, where it’s only him on stage with his instruments, the narration and some vintage photographs. A story that speaks of hopes, dreams, resilience, vulnerability and survival. I’ll do my best to bring this extraordinary show to Italy on the occasion of the Holocaust Remembrance Day, in January next year.

For now, I’ll enjoy the poetic string arrangement on È Solo Un Fiore: so delicate, cinematic, dreamy! The strings combine with David Immerglück's electric guitar and Alex Valle's pedal steel and remind me of the wonderful record I first heard Tim Lorsch's violin from: Mercy by Same Backer which was all built on the joints between the pedal steel and Tim's violin. The perfect setting for Sam's vocals and acoustic guitar and his infinitely sad and raw lyrics. Mercy is one of the most beautiful debut albums ever. He recorded it at 52 and the story behind it seems coming directly from a movie script. Sam worked in a bank as a debt collector. Then, after a terrible accident, he quit his job and changed his life, dedicating himself to music and painting. In 1986 there was an attack on a train bound for Machu Picchu. A bomb blew up the entire coach. Sam was the only survivor of that coach and from that day on, he carries in his eyes the despair for those interrupted lives, charred bodies next to his, which still bears the scars of that terrible accident. Sam's eyes are blue like the sea and look at the horizon as each day were his last, with infinite gratitude towards every single moment of joy that a new day can bring. Sam has single sided deafness and following the accident he had to learn to play left handed guitar. In 2004, he released his first album Mercy, an absolute masterpiece thanks also to Tim Lorsch's violin. In those years, before returning home from Texas, we threw a party in an Austin club called The Mean Eyed Cat. That's where I played for the first time with Tim. Everyone was there, Joe Ely, Sam Baker, Gurf Morlix, JT Van Zandt, Raul Malo of the Mavericks, Kevin Welch, Andrew Hardin and my inseparable travel companions Massimilano Larocca and Marco Python Fecchio.

Tim Lorsch completes the four aces violin dream team of the album, joining Carrie Rodriguez, Scarlet Rivera and Steve Wickham.

The making of Zabala: Episode 11 - Steve Wickham

Let’s keep talking about violin. Ten years after Desire by Dylan, which started in an epic way with Scarlet Rivera in Hurricane, another album was released which is certainly part of my all-time top ten: Fisherman’s Blues by The Waterboys. Two acoustic guitar chords, an electric mandolin opening and then the glorious entry by Steve Wickham’s with his violin.

That long note that takes you by the hand and brings you to another dimension. Then, Mike Scott’s magic voice. The verse ends and it’s Wickham’s violin riff which is already history. On that same record, there are more than seven minutes of Sweet Thing by Van Morrison. That version is just crazy, also thanks to that violin sound, ancient and modern at the same time.  There are the roots, the charm, the spirituality and the warmth of Ireland, but also a pure rock dimension.

Before joining The Waterboys, Steve Wickam played with Sinead O’Connor and with U2 in their War album as a key player in one of the most powerful and immortal songs in history: Sunday Bloody Sunday. Mike Scott heard about Steve Wickham for the first time from Sinead O’Connor and invited him to take part to Fisherman’s Blues recording session, in one of the most romantic pages in history.

An incredible musical ensemble so busy having fun and making music to leave their phone off the hook, therefore not answering the call from the record company that would launch them as the most important British rock band of the moment.

Every day, a new musician would join them. A few years ago, a box set was released containing seven CD of those recording sessions with more than 120 songs!

I was introduced to Steve Wickham by my friend James Maddock. Sometime during the mid90s The Waterboys auditioned for a lead guitarist. James showed up and he was chosen straight away from among many. And when Mike Scott realized that James was not only a great guitarist, but above all a great songwriter, he encouraged him to pursue a career as a soloist. «James, I don't want to have a talent like you on my conscience. I'm sure we'll meet again». So, James Maddock followes Mike Scott’s suggestion and soon the band Wood was born, with a record deal with Sony. The band is quite successful and some songs on their album become part of the soundtrack of the movie Serendipity and the Dawson's Creek series. Then, one day, James loses his head for a woman, follows her to New York, love ends, James disappears of all radars. To reappear again in 2010 with the album Sunrise on Avenue C, which is so successful that Mike Scott gets to listen to it, falls in love with it and flies to New York to work with James to compose new material for The Waterboys.  The outcome of those James, Mike and Steve’s New York days can be found on internet, including a wonderful version of Fisherman’s Blues at Rockwood Music Hall.

It’s an immense honor and a great joy to have Steve Wickam's violin on Where the Wild Horses Run.

The making of Zabala: Episode 10 - Scarlet Rivera

Don’t be afraid to dream big, because dreams do come true. In the last few years, incredible things happened to me, like sharing the Paramount Theater stage with Bruce Springsteen in Asbury Park for two years in a row.  One of the biggest wishes come true, was playing with Scarlet Rivera and having her violin on my record.

Among the first vinyl I bought as a kid, there was Desire by Bob Dylan.  I had it delivered with other records and because of the rush to open the package, I scratched the B side with my knife. The needle would stuck by the half of the record - in Joey - so I would put it back at Romance in Durango, a song that I also love in the version by Fabrizio De André and which squared my circle in putting together the Italian songwriters I used to listen to as a child and the American rock I was getting to love so much.

And then, there was Scarlet’s violin. As soon as it was released, I bought Desire on CD. Along with Blood on The Tracks and Street Legal it’s by far the record by Dylan that I’ve listened to the most.

The encounter between Dylan and Scarlet is pure literature and Martin Scorsese depicted it perfectly in the Netflix docufilm Rolling Thunder Review.

Scarlet Rivera, The Queen of Swords, is one of the main characters and certainly the sexiest, the most intriguing and mysterious one. Legend has it that Bob Dylan’s driving around one night, while listening to some Desire recording sessions (Eric Clapton had just recorded his lead guitar on the record) when he sees a girl walking across the street with a violin strapped to her back in New York’s Lower East Side. He stops the car and he asks her to join him. They go for a drink and then, in the middle of the night, he brings her to the studios to record her violin on the parts that Clapton had just played on.

Desire would be released with a violin replacing Eric Clapton’s guitar. A violin played by a young woman he had met by chance!

That was a pivotal moment in rock history. No such sound had been heard before: a synthesis between rock and folk that would influence the way of making music.

Scarlet's violin has the scent of gypsies and Mexico and would become even more epic during the legendary Rolling Thunder Review tour and in the movie Renaldo and Clara. Scarlet Rivera's violin in Hurricane is one of the most beautiful pages in rock history. I had always dreamed of meeting her one day. Among the many tours I organized shortly before the pandemic, there was Eric Andersen’s, one of the greatest American songwriters, who performed in the sixties at the Village with Dylan, Dave Von Ronk and Joni Mitchell. I’ve known Eric Andersen for many years, I have seen him live countless times and his record Blue River is to me an absolute masterpiece (and not only to me, also to Maude Lebowsky!). In his tour in November 2019 Eric gifted the whole country of Italy with the presence of Scarlet Rivera who flew from Los Angeles to play with him.

Sharing the stage with them, his wife Inge, backing vocals, Cheryl Prashker on percussion and Paolo Ercoli on dobro, steel and mandolin. This wonderful quintet recorded an amazing live performance at the Spaziomusica club in Pavia which will soon be released. The most extraordinary moments of that tour for me were two off-schedules.

The first was a dinner/ concert at the La Viscontina farmhouse in Somma Lombardo where we were joined by Jono Manson and Johnny Irion with her daughter Olivia (Woody Guthrie’s great-granddaughter) and seeing her on stage with Scarlet was just crazy. I hosted a dinner party at my basement with Eric and Scarlet and a few friends, including Carlo Feltrinelli. On that occasion, we played for the very first time Gabriela y Chava Moreno. We played it again, two weeks later, when Scarlet got back from Greece and a few hours before leaving for America when she joined me at the Amandla pub in Cermenate, where I was performing with my Borderlobo band. She played for the entire concert with us and I will cherish that evening as one of the most beautiful ever in my life. We’ve been in touch since, we played remote during the pandemic and home-recorded the unreleased song Liberi. And here you can enjoy her violin in Gabriela y Chava Moreno together with Joel Guzman's accordion. Just make sure to have your glass of frozen margarita when you listen to it!

The making of Zabala: Episode 9 - Larry Campbell & Teresa Williams

Larry Campbell was a member of Bob Dylan's "Never Ending Tour" band from 1997 until 2004 and, at the apex of his career, he made a life choice to stop playing with the greatest songwriter in history to start an art project with his wife Teresa Williams.

So, together with  Levon Helm, Larry became the leader of the legendary Midnight Ramble Band, playing a gig every Saturday at Helm’s home and studio, "The Barn," in Woodstock, New York. Each time, a new extraordinary guest is added to the list of these performances: Elvis Costello, John Prine, Emmylou Harris, Richard Thompson, Jackson Browne, Phil Lesh.

Larry Campbell takes playing music to a whole other level.  

Besides Bob Dylan and Levon Helm, he has played with the Black Crowes, Little Feat, David Bromberg and many others, but what gets me really emotional is thinking that before becoming famous, Larry was The Greg Tropper Band’s guitarist!

I gave Larry and Teresa the murder ballad I Piani del Signore. They created wonderful gospel parts on the chorus and Larry plays the pedal steel and the violin that magically fit together with Guzman's hammond organ, making of the song the absolute highlight of the record.

The making of Zabala: Episode 8 - David Bromberg

Talking about dreaming big… David Bromberg: a living legend.

A celebrated fingerpicking virtuoso who has learned directly from Reverend Gary Davis. Just to name a few of his historic collaborations: Jerry Garcia, Jorma Kaukonen, Jerry Jeff Walker, Doug Sahm, Gordon Lighfoot, John Prine, Willie Nelson. His outstanding bravura led David Bromberg to debut with a self-titled record in 1972 in which George Harrison and Bob Dylan played. He’s a legend: plain and simple. He plays blues by making  bluegrass and traditions come together, he forged a sound that would later be called "Americana". At the pick of his career, Bromberg decided to disappear from the spotlight and devoted himself to the construction of violins.

He’s cultured, sophisticated person we had the pleasure of hosting on the Comabbio Lake at the Buscadero Day’s last edition. That was the most beautiful, but also the toughest one, which ended up in the search of a new location and in a crowfounding campaign.

An exclusive dinner with Bromberg and his band at the “Alla Corte Lombarda” charming restaurant in Mornago, Varese area, was one of the rewards. We were welcomed by the young chef Marco and his family, all music lovers, thrilled and full of expectations for the night ahead. Marco really outdid himself with a tasting menu in which he showed off the very best of his repertoire. At the head of our long table sat David Bromberg right next to Paolo Carù and my friend Eugenio Limido. Old vinyl records and photographs sprouted like flowers, all asking to be signed.  And finally, a guitar was handed to Bromberg, who gifted us with a true gem. All eyes were half-closed while an arpeggio took us on a journey from Greenwich Village to the cliffs of Ireland and David’s voice started singing of fishermen and sailors. It was an old ballad by Gordon Bock. David got emotional: that was a magic night for him, too and the friendship that binds him to Paolo Carù and to the Buscadero felt stronger than ever. 

Listening to his electric slide guitar in Se vedessi la baia ora, one of the sweetest ballads of my record, it’s a dream come true.

The making of Zabala: Episode 7 - Mexican Guitars: David Pulingham, Andrew Hardin

Today, I would like to tell you about two guitarists without whom this record wouldn’t have been done. Both for the bond of real friendship that unites us, and for that Mexican flavored border sound that makes their style so unique. I’m talking about Andrew Hardin and David Pulkingham. I went many times to Austin for the SXSW and one of the top moments of the festival was the finale held in the San José Motel parking lot on the South Congress, in front of the Continental Club, a few steps away from the Allens Boots and Guero’s, where you can have the best Margaritas in the city.

The parking lot would come alive by the street food and vintage clothes stalls with a crowd ready to dance and applaud to a terrific line up, year after year.

Rock’n’roll and honkytonk with Billy Joe Shaver, Hayes Carll, Chris Gaffney, Ray Wylie Hubbard and the closing ceremony that was always led by Alejandro Escovedo who would appear on stage every time with a different band. String, ballerinas, mariachi horns… it was an explosion of colors and sounds with David Pulkingham always conducing the orchestra and setting the audience of fire with his electric and nylon string guitar solos. I brought Alejandro and David touring in Italy many times. They were also guests of the Townes Van Zandt International Festival. In recent years David has played with Patty Griffin and Robert Plant. He plays on my record in Where the Wild Horses Run and in Gabriela y Chava Moreno together with Andrew Hardin. I was a kid when I went and  see him in concert with Tom Russell, almost thirty years ago. I was crazy about his way of playing… and the beginning of Gallo del Cielo was pure emotion.

Andrew and his wife Gigi are among the closest and dearest friends I’ve got in Texas. In all these years we have shared many moments together, in Italy and in Wimberley, a Texan town south of Austin on the Blanco river. Andrew came to tour with Kevin Welch, John Fullbright, Aztex, Joel Guzman. We played together at Woody Fest in Oklahoma and he performed in Charlie Cinelli, Radoslav Lorkovic and  Barnetti Bros Band’s records and a few months before the pandemic outbreak, he was part of a spectacular caravan composed by Chris Buhalis, Gurf Morlix and Blackie Farrell.

Close your eyes now and imagine Sonora Death Row played by his guitar…

The making of Zabala: Episode 6 - Keys: Brian Mitchell, Radoslav Lorkovic, Tommy Mandell

Keys: keyboards, piano, wurlitzer, hammond, accordion.

Obviously, Joel Guzman comes to mind, but we have already talked about him.

After listening to David Grissom's guitars on Elijah Quando Parla, I thought the song had taken an unexpected, very rock, direction and the only instrument worth adding was the hammond organ. I had been impressed by Thom Chacon's sounds in Blood in the USA, masterfully rendered through his acoustic guitar fingerpicking, Tony Garnier's double bass guitar and Tommy Mandel's visionary organ. Thom gave me Tommy’s phone number. "Make sure you call him. You’ll see, he will be happy to play on you record!". So, while Tom was talking about him, I went through the list of musicians he had played with: Dire Straits, Brian Adams, Tina Turner, Bon Jovi, The Pretenders, Cyndi Lauper and even The Clash, on Combat Rock! It took me a couple of weeks before I gathered the courage to call him and – eventually - I thankfully did. As a result, I think Elijah is destined to be released as a single from the record.

Brian Mitchell is another giant of American music. James Maddock has always referred to him as "the best musician in all New York". He played with Levon Helm, Bob Dylan, Dolly Parton, Dwight Yoakam, BB King, Buster Poindexter, Allen Toussaint and many others. He came on tour In Italy with James Maddock to play at the latest edition of Buscadero Day. I even got him to play on my record on the same day he got vaccinated for COVID. Brian plays the electric piano on Buon Anno Fratello and on C'è. Another friend who I absolutely had to have play on my record is Radoslav Lorkovic. He’s one of those musicians I had been lucky enough to see live many times in the early 90s accompanying and enhancing the songs of my favorite songwriters. Richard Shindell, Jimmy LaFave, Ellis Paul, Shawn Mullins, Odetta. Radoslav is pure joy. Of Croatian heritage and of Midwest musical background cultivated at the court of Greg Brown, Bo Ramsey and Dave Moore.

Radoslav is one of those friends you find yourself with by accident eating in a remote restaurant in the Apennines or improvising music at 3 am in the parking lot of a hotel in Okemah, Oklahoma. But all these are things that didn’t only happen to me. When Radoslav met Shindell it was just legendary. Carlini had put them on the same train, Shindell arriving from Paris, Radoslav leaving from Sesto Calende, so they bumped into each other in the journey towards Cosenza, where they would share the stage. For the whole duration of the trip, which was hours, they spoke French, ignoring they were both Americans, which they only found out during the soundcheck. A few months later, Radoslav would be recording his piano and accordion on Shindell’s Reunion Hill album. I could fill a whole book with anecdotes about Radoslav and his squeezebox, which one day disappeared to be found again years later, as if by magic.

Many years ago, in Italy, Radoslav was gifted with a flame-red accordion. He was very fond of that instrument and, one evening, during perhaps the most prestigious event of his career, a stellar concert with Jackson Browne and other incredible musicians, someone stole it from him. That happened at Madison Square Garden.  Everybody noticed that his face was inexplicably sad. When the sponsor of the show found out the reason why, in the hope of putting a smile back on Radoslav’s face, he immediately ordered a new accordion from Italy, which had exactly the same characteristics.  So, a few days afterwards, from Castelfidardo, a beautiful Baffetti arrived. But what happened a few years later was surreal: an elderly lady fortuitously found the stolen accordion and having heard the story, she got in contact with Radoslav and send it back to him. I’m proud to say that very one magical accordion is on my record together with the wurlitzer and the grand piano which Radoslav recorded at the Transient Studio in Chicago for the tracks Se Vedessi la Baia Ora, C’è, Tutti i Pesci del Mare, È Solo un Fiore, Maya dei Girasoli.

PS: The album booklet contains many beautiful photos taken by Radoslav, included the cover depicting  US Route 6 (Kerouac’s highway), just East of Tonopah, Nevada.

The making of Zabala: Episode 5 - Carrie & Luke

During the recording of this album, I stayed with my family in the heart of Austin at the Posada del Rey enchanting apartments, at Carrie Rodriguez and Luke Jacobs’s place where there’s a terrace overlooking a courtyard bordered by arches imported directly from Mexico and the blue of a large swimming pool. The panorama from the third floor offers the view of the city’s skyscrapers and of the main live music venues who are just a few blocks away.

Carrie and Luke are friends, family. During their tours in Italy we intertwined trip after trip in the most beautiful places of the country. We went together to Sanremo for the “Premio Tenco” award and in Tuscany, hosted by Elena’s relatives, but our greatest memories are the dinners in our basement. 

Carrie and Luke are truly in love with Italy but then it was their turn to let us discover the most enthralling corners of Texas such as the endless bluebonnets meadows.  

Among the highlights of our last trip to Austin there’s the dinner at Jim and Katy’s place, Carrie’s mother, who’s a wonderful  woman, painter and cook. Our friendship with them started that very evening and continued in our shared travels, encounters between America and Italy with Townes Van Zandt’s spirit lighting the way.

Katy was friends with Townes and all the 70s Texan poets-songwriters: Guy Clark, David Olney, Richard Dobson, Blaze Foley, Eric Taylor and of course her ex-husband and Carrie's father, David Rodriguez.

Carrie started at a very young age playing violin and singing with Chip Taylor,  brother of John Voight the actor and therefore Angelina Jolie’s uncle, but - above all - author of immortal songs such as Wild Thing, made famous by Jimi Hendrix. Carrie is one of the most important American songwriters and violinists and has worked with Lucinda Williams, John Prine, Patty Griffin, Rickie Lee Jones, Mary Gauthier, Los Lobos, Alejandro Escovedo and Bill Frisell.

I met Carrie in my first years in Austin. We were both playing in a honky tonky club out of town. I think it was in Manor and that was Richard Dobson who had arranged that concert for me. Carrie is my Texan cousin, with curly hair, just  like mine. One of the most exciting things I did with her is certainly her concert at the Cactus Cafe, the historic university pub in Austin where Townes used to play. You can admire my American cousin's wonderful violin here, in my Irish ballad All Pisces of the Sea. Luke had a pivotal role throughout the record and took part in many of session organized by Joel. I heard him live for the first time at Maria Taco's when he played with Romantica, his band from Minnesota. Not long after, he would be by Carrie's side, in life and on stage.


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