Bluegrass Beyond Borders: La Terza Classe is bluegrass with Italian flair

Italy’s La Terza Classe was formed in October 2012, but in truth, they were birthed in the streets of their native Napoli even before that time. “The band came together due the passion and love for folk music we shared in general,” guitarist/vocalist Pierpaolo Provenzano insists.”Some of us have known each other quite a long time, and after busking around Europe and Napoli, we decided to form a real band.”

Indeed, they had a lot to share. Their music encompassed a wide variety of both modern and traditional musical styles, including bluegrass, folk, Dixieland, traditional jazz, pop, blues, and jug band music, all embedded with what Provenzano describes as typical Neapolitan theatricality. “Our sound is very energetic and very raw,” he says. “Our vocal harmonies are very prominent and they contribute to our signature sound.”

Like their eclectic mix of sounds, their influences vary widely as well. Provenzano lists Tony Rice, Flatt & Scruggs, Old Crow Medicine Show, Mumford and Sons, Bruce Springsteen, and Pete Seeger in particular as the artists that have had the greatest impact on their approach.

The band, which currently consists of Provenzano, Alfredo D’Ecclesiis (harmonica and vocals), Rolando “Gallo” Maraviglia (upright bass and vocals), Riccardo Antonielli (percussion and vocals), Enrico Catanzariti (drums and vocals) and Michelangelo Bencivenga (banjo), recorded their initial EP, Ready to Sail, in 2014 and saw sales of more than 2,000 copies thanks to their constant touring. Two years later, their second studio effort. Folkshake, was released. That was followed by a self-title EP and, most recently, a live album, Live @ Ex Asilo Filangieri.

Their music can be heard on their Spotify channel, La Terza Classe:

The group has also gained a popular following as a result of their extensive touring. “We’ve performed in Italy, France, Germany, Belgium, Canada, and, most of all, several times in the US, especially on the east coast and in the south,” Provenzano notes. “In fact, we’ve toured in the States every year since 2014.”

Their efforts have clearly paid off. They were named official artists at South By Southwest in and performed three times at the Bluegrass Underground in Nashville. In addition, they made four appearances in a row on the popular TV program, Music City Roots, and a special appearance on The Blue Plate Special, a program broadcast live on WDVX radio in Knoxville, Tennessee. In 2015 the band won second place at a bluegrass competition in Anderson, South Carolina and was then given the opportunity to perform on the main stage of the Boograss Bash Festival along with such headliners as Doyle Lawson & Quicksilver, Rhonda Vincent and Flatt Lonesome. In 2016, they had the distinction of appearing on Italy’s got Talent. In addition, their music has been featured on several Italian television programs.

Likewise, their original tune, Paulina, and their cover of Rollin’ In My Sweet Baby’s Arms, have been used in commercials. La Terza Classe was also featured in a documentary, Flat Tyre – An American Music Dream, a film that followed the band during their first trip to the States. It was that journey that led the band to discover the roots of American folk music. The documentary, directed by Ugo di Fenza and edited by Paolo Ielpo, won the 2016 edition of the Napoli Film Festival and received the jury’s special mention at the Salento International Film Festival 2017.

They’ve also share stages with other notables, including during their appearances Nashville. alongside Jim Lauderdale and Sam Bush.

“Our shows are a mix of traditional folk songs we’ve rearranged,” Provenzano explains, citing Nine Pound Hammer and Wayfaring Stranger as but two examples. “However, we also do original songs which tend to be more more bluegrass, blues and pop oriented.”

Provenzano said that the reaction to their music with their audiences at home has been especially gratifying. “People in Italy are very happy to discover our music,” he claims. “It’s very well received because we blend the bluegrass sound with a distinct Italian touch. We add humor to our performances and sing some of the lyrics in Italian. Since our sound is very energetic and melodic at the same time, lots of people come to see us and they really enjoy the entertainment we offer them.”

Naturally then, Provenzano has a ready explanation for bluegrass’ international popularity. “We think it’s due to the instrumentation,” he says. “But it’s also because it’s actually happy and upbeat — dance music with heart and feeling.”

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About the Author

Lee Zimmerman

Lee Zimmerman has been a writer and reviewer for the better part of the past 20 years. He writes for the following publications — No Depression, Goldmine, Country Standard TIme, Paste, Relix, Lincoln Center Spotlight, Fader, and Glide. A lifelong music obsessive and avid collector, he firmly believes that music provides the soundtrack for our lives and his reverence for the artists, performers and creative mind that go into creating their craft spurs his inspiration and motivation for every word hie writes.