Every so often an album appears that seems to have literally soaked up some of the atmosphere of the place in which it was recorded.
For My Land Is Your Land, British folk legend Ashley Hutchings — of The Albion Band and Fairport Convention — teamed up with Italian musician, producer, and writer, Ernesto De Pascale in their beloved Tuscany to produce a diverse album rich with Anglo-Italian flavor.
There is also an impressive list of guests appearing here, including fellow member of The Albion Band, Ken Nicol, one-time Jethro Tull drummer Clive Bunker, the string arrangements of Joe Broughton, the beautiful voice of the multi-talented Jo Hamilton, and many renowned musicians from Italy.
My Land Is Your Land is a heartfelt collection drawn from the combined passions of Ashley and Ernesto, covering wide-ranging subjects like football, food, and art — among Italy’s greatest of passions.
The album opens with the Hutchings and Nicol composition “A Patch Of Earth,” a wistful song that is further enriched by the voice of Marian Trapassi, who shares vocals with the ever impressive Ken Nicol. The track also benefits from some lush string arrangements and wonderful lyrics, creating an atmosphere of personal reflection.
“No Juliet Dreaming,” which also features Ken Nicol on vocals, is a clever and memorable song apparently of Verona love past, amid the present.
“You Are What You Eat” features the gravelly voice of Graziano Romani, along with lyrics that speak of the color and passion of Italy and its people set against the often grey backdrop of England and the English. "Italian food is poetry," claims De Pascale, "‘roll it round the tongue." Whereas "English food is doggered, throw it down and run."
“The Old Masters,” which has Jo Hamilton’s voice and viola alongside Ruth Angell vocals and violin, is an incisive look at art The Masters set against that of The Moderns. It ends with the incisive line, "See what speed has taught us."
There is a richness to this album, of time spent in reflection at a slower pace of life, over a bottle of good wine enjoyed in Tuscany, no doubt.
Ernesto De Pascale’s spoken narrative of moving to England many years ago in the late sixties forms the interlude that is “The Call Of Yesterday.” It works well here within the context of this album, as he explains how, in a strange land, that "music was the perfect companion."
“Working Underground” finds Ashley recalling his early days on the road with Fairport Convention. From a "rattling old van, to a plane to another land," it paints a superb picture of life spent "working underground, mining for a sound."
“Come And Buy,” which features "Teesside Troubadour" Vin Garbutt and Ernesto covering vocals, is an interchange of Anglo-Italian market life full of character and vibrancy.
The passion of football comes next with “The Lion Of Highbury." I've actually seen the black and white flickering film of this famous old match, which took place in North London in 1934 between England — the self-proclaimed best team in the world — against Italy, the genuine world champions. This song magically adds the color, the excitement, and the theatre of the event, bringing it all back to life. Complete with original Italian radio commentary, it is set against the English folk presentation.
The Anglo-Italian theme is further explored with “The Song Of Two Bridges (Westminster and Ponte Vecchio)” and has Chris Leslie on vocals. Beautifully written from the two bridge’s own perspectives, it is another gentle, yet rich, composition.
“Ten Miles Going There And Ten Miles Coming Back,” sung beautifully by Jo Hamilton, is best explained by its opening verse, which introduces the song as being from the Tuscan hills and the Yorkshire lanes. Exquisitely sung, it makes for yet another special flavor added to an already rich menu.
The spoken part, taken from Dante's La Vita Nuova and Shakespeare's Romeo and Juliet, on “Come Join Together” is performed by Ashley Hutchings and set above the gorgeous string arrangement of Ruth Angell and Jo Hamilton. “Family Ties” has Ernesto telling us of his widespread family from Manchester to Siena, through Camden to Vienna, and on into the black sheep of Sicily.
The “Epilogue (All’s Well That Ends Well)” brings this work to a close. Sung in Italian by Riccardo Marasco, it underpins my need to return to Italy as soon as I can afford the flight.
This album creates a feeling similar to that experienced at the end of a long and lazy afternoon meal in Italy. Every course is rich in its own way. The company is exceptional, welcoming, entertaining, interesting, and passionate about life as well as all of its pleasures. The meal is enjoyed slowly as the afternoon unfolds and each course reveals something more of the land and its people.
My Land Is Your Land (Esoteric Recordings, 2008) is an extraordinary achievement that sits beyond trend or genre and instead warms the heart with the warm glow of bonhomie.
Ashley Hutchings can be found on his official website. Ernesto De Pascale can be found here on his official site.