Satellite Inn “Satellite Inn”

Tara Tapes Productions 2024

Evocative transmissions from alt-country pioneers.

Satellite Inn album coverStiv Cantarelli and Satellite Inn go way back. Back to when Ryan Adams was sharing a twelve-passenger rental van with a U-Haul trailer, while Tweedy and Farrar could just about amicably share a splintering stage. In 1997, North Carolina’s Mood Food Records decided that Satellite Inn, a band from Italy’s northern Emilia-Romagna region, could replace a lost Whiskeytown on the still-happening alternative country music bandwagon. Debut album ‘Cold Morning Songs’ got released in 1998. For the next couple of years they toured the US. However, circumstances did not play out favourably for the band and eventually Cantarelli returned to Italy. ‘In the Land of the Sun’ was released in 2006, the band finally splitting in 2007. The intervening years saw Cantarelli foray into this country with The Silent Strangers (they supported Richmond Fontaine) and James Dean Hangover. Solo project ‘Innerstate’ was released by El Cortez Records in 2012. In 2022 Cantarelli played some lockdown tracks to original bass player Fabrizio Gramelini and drummer Antonio Perugini and the reformation began. “Turn back the clock to when you were gold” Cantarelli sings on this album’s opening track ‘Bury the Ashes’.

Cantarelli says the lyrics on these nine tracks were written using the cut-up technique, in the style of early Dylan rather than Burroughs. Tired of writing stories… they’re based on rants that he could cut into pieces and rearrange. Indeed, there’s not the usual song structure, very few narratives and the closest thing to an expression of love is a track called ‘Two Old Brothers’. But the lyrics do seem to compliment the band’s residual punkish drive and one-take sound. Perugini produces a fair amount of noise from the minimum amount of kit. His drumming is frenetic on tracks such as ‘Sam’, backing the prophetic line “Nothing’s going to change us but time” and the final, defiant call “And We Will be Free”. The drumming is at odds with ‘Two Old Brothers’ but helps to create this standout track. ‘Wayfaring Angel’ builds to amplify Cantarelli’s guitar and Gramelini’s bass. Mellower tracks include ‘Benjamin’ with added harmonica. The music ebbs and flows as does Cantarelli’s singing voice. Some of the lyrics are just plain bizarre: “Your life could taste of cinnamon when you’re trying to do some math” and “Your eyes took the aim, just behind your brain” to quote just a couple. Cut and paste gone too far? ‘Going to Wilmington’ is a provocative title but it doesn’t go there. A reference to a Jack Kerouac novel explains a lot. It is certainly a stream of consciousness with a cracking tune. ‘One Last Look and I’m Gone’ is a fine ending and another stand-out, Cantarelli’s saloon bar piano playing helping to create an interesting sound. It’s a sound worth further investigation after all the nostalgia.

David Menconi, who wrote ‘Ryan Adams: Losering, a Story of Whiskeytown’, blogged in 2014 about a token given out by the band’s record company to promote ‘Strangers Almanac’ in 1997. Whiskeytown’s old manager Jenni Sperandeo divulged she still had a boxful of customised miniature whiskey bottles in her garage. The Seagram’s label incorporated the band’s name and single ‘Yesterday’s News’. The tracks on ‘Satellite Inn’ sound like lost demos from the 90s, tapes found in a box at the back of someone’s garage. Indeed, when the band played some early demo tapes to friends the overall opinion was that they “sounded like Satellite Inn back in the day”. But… “now distilled by age and bottled in their native Romagna hills”. Yesterday’s news can still be of interest.

7/10
7/10

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