The Story-Faced Man

There might be eight million stories, but there is only one Vinicio Capossela, an artist inspired by love, history and a curiosity about the relationship between his native Italy and the rest of the world. His is the demimonde of the sideshows rather than the circus, a more intimate place, where surprising things happen, where minotaurs, cowboys and Medusa vie for attention, and where giants, maharajahs and magicians have their hearts broken.

His story began in 1990, with All’una e trentacinque circa. “You know Round midnight?” he says. “This is Around 1.35am. I wanted a time when nothing important happens.” When critics anointed him “the Italian Tom Waits”, he replied with the album Modì, its title both tribute to his hero, Modigliani, and a play on the French word maudit(cursed). On his third album, Camera a sud, he explored the relationship between America and Italy. The bigger country built itself using the people and talent of the Old World, but sent back music it called “latin” and “jazz”. 

America continues to intrigue – witness La faccia della terra, from 2008’s Da solo, recorded in Arizona with Calexico – but Capossela’s story took a unique turn with Il ballo di San Vito in 1996, an album about the life he knew best. Rather than imitate the latest American or British thing, he decided to play for the people in front of him, to create a modern Italian musical lexicon. “I used to go to weddings in the south, where my parents come from,” he explains. “I loved the small bands that played there and the strange instruments they used. So I wrote an entirely Italian album, a picture of the whole country from road level.” In a country isolated by language from the world’s pop music markets, it was an audacious move, but this was the beginning of his backwards journey into history.

Waltzes, polkas and even rebetiko – the dances of the Old World – became second nature on Canzoni a manovella, the Italian album of the year in 2000. Here Capossela travelled the world in unconventional style, from central and eastern Europe to the Mexican border, never afraid to visit frontiers, blend cultures or ignore the signs that say “Do not cross”. Six years passed before the next album, Ovunque proteggi, took this a step further, immersing the writer in the myths and legends of the ancient world, refusing to compromise, throwing his audience to the lions of the Colosseum and celebrating the independent spirits whose rites ignore conformity and the corporate world. “Italy is a small country,” Capossela says, “but it has deep roots.”

Dig down and there is much more to uncover about Vinicio Capossela – the short stories and poetry, the wrestling and Michelangelo … This, then, is only Chapter 1, the rest is written on his face. 

David Hutcheon


  1. Non trattare – 6:01
  2. Brucia Troia – 4:53
  3. La faccia della terra – 5:19
  4. Lettere di soldati – 5:43
  5. Moskavalza – 5:19
  6. Bardamù – 4:32
  7. Polka di Warsava (frammento) – 0:45
  8. Marajà – 3:28
  9. Con una rosa – 5:24
  10. Non è l’amore che va via – 4:06
  11. Signora luna – 4:15
  12. Si è spento il sole – 2:25
  13. Che coss’è l’amor – 4:16
  14. L’uomo vivo (Inno alla gioia) – 5:06
  15. S.S. dei naufragati – 7:37
  16. Ovunque proteggi – 5:54


Vinicio Capossela (pianoforte, mellotron, melodica, chitarra wood-dobro National e voce), Zeno De Rossi (grancassa, batteria e piatti), Enrico Gabrielli (clarinetto piccolo, sax contralto, clarinetto basso, flauto, Eko tiger organ), Frank London (tromba), Matt Darriau (sax baritono), Enrico Allorto (basso tuba), Giulio Rosa (basso tuba, cimbasso), Cameron Carpenter e Anthony Coleman (Mighty Wurlitzer Theater Organ), Glauco Zuppiroli (contrabbasso), Alessandro “Asso” Stefana (chitarra, lap steel guitar, chitarra fantasma, tubular bells, autoharp, cori), JD Foster (campanellini, cori), Vincenzo Vasi (glockenspiel, toy piano, fischietto, cori, theremin), Raffaele Kohler (tromba, flicorno soprano), Luciano Macchia (trombone), Edodea Ensemble (quartetto d’archi), Vincenzo “Cinaski” Costantino (fischio d’inizio), Pascal Comelade (toy piano e altri strumenti giocattolo), Gianfranco Grisi (cristallarmonio, concertina), Ursula Knudson (sega musicale), Fabrice Martinez (violino), Joey Burns (contrabbasso, chitarra classica), John Convertino (batteria), Martin Wenk (tromba), Jacob Valenzuela (tromba), Mario Brunello (violoncello), Gak Sato (battito del cuore). Partiture per archi di Enrico Gabrielli.