The untraditional Anti-Folk punk band.
Mosche Di Velluto Grigio are an Italian Celtic-punk band and while their name may not trip lightly off the tongue of anyone who cannot speak Italian it’s certainly more poetic and beautiful than the English translation, Gray Velvet Flies! The name appears to come from an old Italian horror film directed by Dario Argento. The band were founded in 2000 and hail from Canneto sull’Oglio in the northern Italian region of Lombardy, home of fellow Celtic rockers The Clan and Strawdaze. Celtic-Punk has always been popular in Italy and relations between their Irish and Italians have always in the main been friendly, except perhaps in the USA in the past where two poverty stricken immigrant communities lived side by side in ghettos.
Famous for their DIY ethos Mosche Di Velluto Grigio were first conceived in the late nineties when singer Andrea and his sister Laura were inspired by their love for NOFX and the 90s punk scene. Together they went on to recruit others and the first incarnation of the band was gathered around them. Collectively they have become one of the more successful Italian Folk-Punk bands and though influenced by the likes of The Pogues and Dubliners on one wing and Stiff Little Fingers on the other their is more than a ounce of the legend Johnny Cash in there as well. These days members of the band come from not just Lombardy but from all over Italy and even Mexico.
I first came across them on their 2016 album Old School. It never made the reviews here as it was a couple of years old by then but I was impressed and have kept up with them since waiting for a chance to make things right. That album was, as far as I am aware, all traditional folk songs from North America and back Ireland and home to Italy. Internationally renowned songs like ‘Amazing Grace’ and ‘Waltzing Matilda’ go up against classic Celtic songs like ‘The Foggy Dew’ and the ‘Fields Of Athenry’ and a rake of songs that I had never heard before. The new EP, Of Pain And Glory, carries on in the same vein except with one exception all the songs are penned by the band. Beginning with ‘A Whisper From My Cigarette’ and it’s classic Celtic-Punk. Loud and bombastic and massive. The song is not particularly fast but catchy and tuneful while Andrea sings out the lyrics, no doubt through a cloud of cigarette smoke! His voice is so raspy he makes Tom Waits sound like the singer in a boy-band. Accordion and tin-whistle grab you here until mid-way when the song suddenly shoots up in tempo. An excellent start that leads into ‘Glasgow Town’ and this is no ordinary Celtic-Punk band as witnessed by the sound of a saxophone wailing away in the background.
Again its catchy as hell and this time a much more straight forward punk rocker of a tune. They slow it down again next for ‘Seven Ships’ and even add in a bit of Country’n’Western twang. Balanced between country and folk it threatens to take off but stays a nice gentle folky foot-tapper with a couple of Celtic touches thrown in for good measure but… then it does go off for last few bars ensuring I’d say a messy dance floor when played live. ‘Pieces Of Glass’ begins as the most Celtic of the songs here with accordion at the forefront before the chugging guitars come in and lead the song on a right merry Celtic-Punk dance. The third single from the EP is ‘Laura’ and we couldn’t have timed this review any better as just three days ago they released the new video and its a great production as many of their videos seem to be.
The EP comes to an end with Mosche Di Velluto Grigio’s favourite song, ‘The Parting Glass’. I say favourite as it also featured on Old School and was released as a single inbetween that record and this. First heard in the late 1700’s the song has been recorded by far to many to mention here but the sad but defiant song has rarely sounded different here. Starting off as barroom ballad they soon up the ante and turn the song into a killer punk rock tribute. Love it.
Bands like Mosche Di Velluto Grigio don’t make covers in the traditional sense of the word. I would prefer to call them re-interpretations. They have taken some old traditional songs of their home, of the Celtic nations and further afield and have made them their own. Mosche Di Velluto Grigio are a utterly fantastic band and if you can get past the distinctive vocals then I’m sure they’ll gain a bit more recognition outside of Italy. While the music has crossover appeal Andrea’s vocals place it firmly in the Punk side of Celtic-Punk but also shows these lot will never be found watering it down.
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