Caboose – Awake Go Zero
9 songs – 38 minutes
A duo composed of multi-instrumentalist/vocalist Luigi DeCicco and drummer Carlo Conte, Caboose are an avant-garde band who based in Benevento, Italy. Despite their seeming far-off locale, however, they put an interesting new spin on traditional Hill Country blues, infusing it with elements drawn from other styles as they take it in a direction it’s never gone before.
The group was founded as a trio in 2018 by DeCicco, who’s a triple threat on guitar, banjo and keys. Discovered by music journalist Gianluca Diana shortly after the release of a self-titled EP. With Marco Coviello on drums and Biagio Daniele on harmonica, they quickly earned airplay on major radio stations across the country and went on to represent Italy in the International Blues Challenge, making it to the semi-finals in Memphis.
The traditional sound they delivered served Caboose well during a tour of Mississippi and Louisiana, when they opened for Robert Kimbrough Jr., Watermelon Slim and Eric Bibb. They subsequently recorded the CD, Hinterland Blues. But DeCicco started teaming in a duo format with Conte because of his jazzy attack on the kit and his own desire to add more experimental sounds to the mix – a change that resulted in successful tours to Germany and inking a contract with BLOOS Records — the Roman label that represents Chicago bluesman Breezy Rodio and acoustic master Corey Harris in Europe – for this effort.
Despite the change, which includes elements of jazz, soul and psych rock, Caboose continues to deliver deep-in-the-pocket, modal sounds that carry forward the feel of north Mississippi and its original home in West Africa. And virtually all of the lyrics in this all-original set are centered on the figure of a nomadic stranger. They’re assisted only by Coviello, whose only appearance is the opening cut, and William Fusco, who provides bass on track four.
A couple of discordant accents on guitar open “Do What the Witch Says” before DeCicco kicks things into high gear, sings in accented English and urges listeners not to resist the enchantress if you want to get along. He delivers almost all of the opening verse before the drums kick in high in the mix. The drone produced will have you rocking from the jump. The pace slows somewhat and brightens slightly for “Fortune.” Built atop a stinging six-string hook and heavy beat, it’s a strong statement that references ownership of a car but truly speaks about the role skin color plays in determining success in America.
The sound adopts almost a reggae feel for “I Want Her Back,” the longing driven home by the rock-steady beat, before the pace changes with the ballad “Home.” Revisiting the theme of the opener, the singer claims he’s been cursed by folks who don’t seem to care from the moment he started on his journey despite playing by all the rules. The tension rises for a brief moment mid-tune before resignation sets in with the realization that he’ll be alone on his trip back home.
Borrowing from a song by R.L. Burnside, the driving “Poor Boy” picks up power as it progresses while continuing the feeling of the traveler’s isolation before things quiet again for the opening of “Viva Hobos,” which is delivered from the position of someone ready to hit the road in order to get away from his lady despite realizing she’ll away be on his mind – possibly for the desires she expresses in “Tongue,” which follows. The feel and tension continue in “Without You” and “Streets I Walk On” to close.
If you’re a fan of Hill Country, you’ll find this one haunting and hypnotic throughout — and definitely worth a listen.