“The freedom of playing without rules…No fears for the future, only hopes: that music can be considered more than a mainstream business but and art like painting, poetry, and dancing.”
Lino Muoio: Mandolin Blues of Med Sea
Guitarist, mandolinist and songwriter Lino Muoio has been a part of the Italian Blues music scene for over 25 years, playing many gigs and festivals with his main band “Blue Stuff” with various appearances on National television, and participated in many recording sessions for a variety of artists in Italy. Not many folks view the mandolin as a Blues instrument, but Lino believes the Blues and the Mandolin fit perfectly together! After the first solo album “Blues on Me” (2008), he decided to dedicate entire projects to producing a fine piece of work dedicated to the Blues Mandolin. The collaboration resulted in a diverse offering of styles, from the vintage country Blues inspiration of Yank Rachell to the Chicago style of Carl Martin, and a healthy dose of jazz, swing and bluegrass.
Lino says: “I’ve started playing guitar at 16 as self-taught, driven by great players like Jimmy Page, Angus Young, Jeff Beck and Van Halen. After few years I met one of the oldest and most famous Italian Blues Band, the Blue Stuff. With this band I have played thousand gigs, festivals and recorded all the official releases since 1999. We had experiences also at Italian Television (Renzo Arbore live show). In the last years I have dedicated myself to other instruments like lap steel, ukulele and mandolin. On 2008 I released my first solo album, “Blues On Me” and on 2012, after few years of studying the root of country Blues, I’ve released “Mandolin Blues”, the first Italian record entirely dedicated to the Blues Mandolin. A very original release appreciated in Italy and Europe. On 2016 came out the album: “Mandolin Blues – The Piano Sessions”, that is an evolution of Mandolin Blues exploring the interplay between mandolin and piano, with an offering of styles from ’20 and ’30 swing and Blues.” Lino’s new chapter of Mandolin Blues called “Mandolin Blues – The Acoustic Sessions” (2018) where he recorded brand new original songs along with the best Italian acoustic Blues musicians.
Interview by Michael Limnios Photos by Ric Pic – Riccardo Piccirillo
What do you learn about yourself from the Blues people? What does “Italian Blues Scene” mean to you?
From the Blues people I’ve learned one simply thing…the Blues is truth. You have to sing about your life, not trying to imitate anyone else.
The Italian Blues scene is not important in my musical formation even for my musical journey. I mean, I’m always trying to find the sound I’ve in my mind, trying to mix the instrument from my culture (the mandolin) and the music I love (the Blues). In Italy we’re still stuck into imitation of the American model so It’s not my model.
What were the reasons that you started the Blues researches? How do you describe your songbook and sound?
To find my sound, my musical texture in which I can contaminate the Blues with the Mediterranean flavor I’m living with. And that’s how I can describe my songbook and style: Blues mandolin music with “contaminations”.
Which acquaintances have been the most important experiences? What was the best advice anyone ever gave you?
Corey Harris! I’m working with him, playing mandolin in his Corey Harris Trio, and the best advice he gave me is to be myself…just being myself, nothing more.
“From the Blues people I’ve learned one simply thing…the Blues is truth. You have to sing about your life, not trying to imitate anyone else. The Italian Blues scene is not important in my musical formation even for my musical journey. I mean, I’m always trying to find the sound I’ve in my mind, trying to mix the instrument from my culture (the mandolin) and the music I love (the Blues). In Italy we’re still stuck into imitation of the American model so It’s not my model.”
Are there any memories from gigs, jams, open acts and studio sessions which you’d like to share with us?
Ehehhehe, too many my friend, really too many in my 25 years career.
My last record “mandolin blues – acoustic party” was a great experience…All the songs were recorded live in only one or two takes. Every musician was free to play whatever he wanted and the result is in some songs, absolutely incredible. We were all friends and the added something into the song composition, not simply playing their part…awesome.
What do you miss most nowadays from the music of past? What are your hopes and fears for the future of?
The freedom of playing without rules…No fears for the future, only hopes: that music can be considered more than a mainstream business but and art like painting, poetry, and dancing.
If you could change one thing in the local (Italian) blues scene and it would become a reality, what would that be?
The Imitation of the American Blues, so we can be free to find “our way to the Blues”
What touched (emotionally) you from the sound of lap steel, ukulele and mandolin? What are the secrets of?
Well, it’s not easy to say because I was and still am a guitar player since 25 years. Maybe the tone of the mandolin touched me in particular, while from ukulele I love the nylon tone of the strings and finally from the lap still the “flowing” of the notes.
“To find my sound, my musical texture in which I can contaminate the Blues with the Mediterranean flavor I’m living with. And that’s how I can describe my songbook and style: Blues mandolin music with “contaminations”.” (Lino Muoio / Photo by Ric Pic – Riccardo Piccirillo)
How has the Blues and Rock counterculture influenced your views of the world and the journeys you’ve taken?
Well, I don’t know exactly “how” this counterculture influenced me, but I sure know the did. In the way I respect and share music with other people for example…
What is the impact of Blues music and culture to the racial, political, and socio-cultural implications?
Well not too much even for Italy, I do think that even If Italy is considered a country of culture, in the end is not exactly like that but in certain context I think we’re quite undeveloped.
Let’s take a trip with a time machine, so where and why would you really want to go for a whole day?
1936 San Antonio…I want to see Robert Johnson recording his sessions…
Do you consider the Beat Generation a specific literary and artistic movement or do you think it’s a state of mind?
Much more than a movement, definitely a state of mind.
How does the underlying philosophy of On the Road impact you?
It taught me to respect place and people everywhere.