I hazard to say that this gifted and inspired Italian bluegrass band could teach a lot of us here on the other side of the pond quite a bit about the deep history of early bluegrass music. The Truffle Valley Boys’ latest album, a gospel outing, could easily serve as lesson 101.
Leaning heavily on the old Starday Records catalog, these guys have enthusiastically revived material from talented but largely (and unjustly) overlooked musicians from the 1950s and 1960s, such as Delmer Sexton, Frances and John Reedy, Martin Hicks, Early Upchurch, The Knight Brothers, The Brewster Brothers, Tater Tate and The Looper Trio.
What’s particularly uncanny is the way the Truffle Valley Boys have so thoroughly immersed themselves in these retro sounds and styles. They recorded these tracks the old-fashioned way, with everyone huddled around a single microphone feeding into vintage recording equipment, including a replica 1950s Gates tube preamp and a 1958 Revox C36 tape machine. It was all done with no overdubs, no tape splices or other more contemporary electronic enhancements.
The results are thrilling. The album opens with a spirited original, “Airwaves of Zion,” penned by band cofounder Matt Ringressi. The group goes on to breath fresh, rustic vitality and exuberance into obscure gems such as “Satan Lost A Sinner” (inspired by a 1957 recording by The Campbell Trio) and “Satan’s Gotta Get Along Without Me.” The latter was cowritten by Buck Owens and R. Simpson, but the version that caught the Truffle Valley Boys’ attention was an obscure cover by the Knight Brothers.
It’s more than a little impressive to hear a band so thoroughly dedicated to a singular trajectory that they pursue with such energy and artistry.