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"We don't use Italian artists because of the language," Moneta says of New Country Kitchen's song choices. "You can't sing the musica lirica in English, nor bluegrass in Italian." According to Zuppa, "Bluegrass is not very big there, so you have to sing tunes that everybody knows. We try to imitate the accent and the voice [of original bluegrass singers], and we get this weird combination of Italian people singing with kind of southern accents. It is funny." But, Moneta notes, there is a common thread between his country's folk music and America's: "The wish to make festa together," he says, "to make noise and let people dance. This is the same spirit among two different cultures."
That connection has kept New Country Kitchen busy. The band plays about 150 shows per year in Italy, most of them in the northern part of the country, where Moneta says a large population of American transplants crave homespun music. Some Italians have also embraced bluegrass, Moneta says, thanks in part to a bluegrass revival that took place in the '80s. A number of festivals around the country during that time helped expose Italians to bluegrass, and New Country Kitchen appeared at many of these events. Sometimes the band ended up jamming with American players. "With our tents in the campground," he notes, "like the American way!"
Over the next few weeks, Coloradans will have a chance to witness Moneta and his pals' bluegrass enthusiasm. (They'll be joined by acoustic guitarist Ross Martin, a member of Tony Furtado's group, mandolinist Charlie Provenza and others.) Zuppa, who has been sitting in with some of the area's best new-grass players, is excited about the reunion. "I have never had as much fun playing bluegrass with bands here as I have playing with these Italian guys," he says. "Everything Italians do, we do with so much love and so much passion."
9 p.m. Wednesday, December 6
Soiled Dove, 1949 Market Street, $4, 303-299-0100
10:30 p.m. Tuesday, December 14
Round Midnite, 1005 Pearl Street, Boulder, $3, 303-442-2176
8 p.m. Wednesday, December 15
Avogadro's, 605 South Mason Street, Fort Collins, $5, 970-493-5555
Moneta says his tour of Colorado and America will be a stirring musical homecoming. "Playing in the USA is like making a dream come true," Moneta enthuses. "We'll have an audience that can truly appreciate our music and comprehend what we're singing, in the place where this music was born. We're closing a circle opened when we were just teens dreaming with open eyes, in our rooms with the classwork, waiting and waiting and waiting."