September 2008. Notes about the record
I had many scores to settle, personal questions, because this, differently from previous works, is not a mythological, fantasy or history based record. There is not the legendary Far West America, but the lonely one of today, where I also had some scores to settle. I had to focus on the inabilty to be sincere, on how we hide ourselves behind shadows and on how we stumble between them to find another person. Another person who exists as tension or separation and who makes our shadows bigger. But this is not a melancholic record; tears, if tears must be, have been dried by the time so that you can build on them.
Then, there are some personal topics, like clandestinity for instance, that propension for hiding your real nature and for being always on the run so as to Be. The fires of youth are there too, they are so near that you can feel their warmth. There is love, a love that makes you feel like an orphan when it is gone, when you can rely on the «Socks' Paradise» only if you want to find it.
Or you can hope to meet the giant and the magicians, a kind of miracle that can happen only when you are left alone. They are the creatures that live inside you since your childhood and that the street sometimes gives you if you are ready for enchantment. Creatures walking in the shadow and trying to keep the flame of their innocence and humanity lit.
There is also good mood, when you hang around in the neighborhood during a sunny day for which you have to thank nobody but the sun. Whistling at the girls, but still sitting at the table, without needing to run anywhere. Growing, bringing with yourself only small things and dreams.
This is fantasy. Instead, death during war, for instance, is not epic at all. It is just an unexpected explosion and pieces of flesh. Nothing else. Violence is raw and it is impersonal because it is provided through engines like remote controls or radars. This is what the song «Lettere di soldati» (Soldiers' letters) is about: the end of every epicness. But there is something good left: a moment in which life becomes as big as a thought, and through that thought you try to reach your beloved ones. That is the moment when soldiers write love letters, the only dignified thing in a world that still forces us to kill somebody.
And then, America and its silence. The new nation that put itself on the head of the world became a giant mall, that turns everything, its citizens' lives first, into commercialization. Flags are always waving in America, there is one in every corner. These flags sound too loud when they wave during the funerals of soldiers who died in Iraq. They wave in silence until it is broken by the music of a marching band, still playing as Salvation Army.
On the musical side, this album has been conceived in a philological way. Piano and voice on their own, in the center, and around them a series of different instruments: some of them are inconsistent (glasses, theremin, saw, toy piano, strings' reverb), other are fantastic (Mighty Wurlitzer, optigan, mellotron) and others are coral (brasses).
When the record was quite ready, we flew to the United States. While travelling, I read Sherwood Anderson's «Ohio Tales»: that Biblical America, rural and made of small villages and hidden passions, a kind of «Spoon River» of the living, pushed me into writing a song in motel rooms, while going West. I called it «La faccia della terra» (The face of the earth), because when you are alone, you usually say «alone on the face of the earth». Once I got in Tucson, the song has been recorded like this, with one take only, with Calexico and their checked shirts. The sound and the literary register of this song are quite different from the others: there is rust, guitars and dust, and the lyrics are about loneliness and people named after biblical characters.
The songs are all written by me, except from the last one, «Non c'è disaccordo nel cielo» (There is no disappointment in heaven), that refers to an old hymn written by Frederick Martin Lehman in 1914. It seems like he wrote these lyrics when he was out of money: perhaps that is why he lifted his eyes up to the sky and thought "Well, at least there... There are no disappointments, and no minor chord songs". My lyrics are not the exact translation of the original, but they are my own way of feeling that topic. A heaven for everyone, that will perhaps welcome us all, or will be found empty. But it is where all the tears shed when we felt better.