Banks of the Lea - Stiv Cantarelli and the Silent Strangers (Stovepony Records)
It’s evident that Italian-born Stiv Cantarelli is a musical creature of his environment. Basing himself in the US in the ’00s, his records reeked Americana and a return to Tuscany in 2012 spawned a dirty alt-country album (“Black Music/White Music”).
Fast-forward a couple of years. “Banks of the Lea” finds him relocated to London with a reconstituted Italian band and churning out urgent, punky blues rock with a dark streak. Music of a time and place.
It might be a prime tourist patch but when you scratch the surface, London is just another very big city. Cantarelli immersed himself in the everyday ordinariness of Hackney, of all places, and this record is the result.
Cantarelli is a rock-solid guitarist and personable vocalist and has surrounded himself with seasoned, sympathetic players. Robert Villa’s interplay on slide and sax in particular is something special, but you can’t fault the foundation laid down by the Silent Strangers engine room. As a combo, they invoke a wholesome brand of sonic fury.
This is an album to throw yourself into, headfirst. It sounds like the band did. "The Streets" is a confident start. “Frenzy” throws rolicking piano and frantic sax into the mix and sounds like the bastard child of Iggy and the Stooges and the Jim Jones revue.
“Jason Hits The City” sounds like a “Kill City” outtake. “Soul Seller” is an acrid guitar rocker with a churning feel while “Before I Die” pits a Dylanesque vocal against stinging guitars.
There’s a raw edge that’s never diminished by studio heavy-handedness. It’s all recorded in analogue at Gizzard Studios with Ed Deegan engineering and Pete "O'Dublo" Bennett in the producer’s seat. It sounds immediate and warm.
London, you say? “Banks Of The Lea” could have just as easily been recorded in Melbourne or Berlin. If you’re a fan of the angry sound of either city’s seamy underbellies, chase this one down.