Franco Ratti is the guy that started International Record Distributors in Milan, Italy as far as I know. I can’t believe I never thought to ask him. He was my mentor and became my true friend. It was he that brought me over to Italy the first time, which began a long run doing annual tours over there. He executive produced my first three Italian albums; Too Tired To Sleep, Go Down Swingin’ and YEP! for his Appaloosa label. Franco was one of the most astute and insightful lovers of American music I’ve met over there. He was a deeply good man and the kind of person you never stop missing after he’s gone.
After Franco died, his cousin Simone Veronelli took over IRD and started his own Moonlight Records. Simone is now re-releasing YEP! on Moonlight Records. After YEP!’s initial run on Appaloosa it was picked up by CORE in Nashville and went through two re-printings there. Aside from the first four major label albums, I think YEP! is my most reprinted work. With this newest iteration Mr. Veronelli is including a full-length bonus live CD comprised of recordings from Italian shows from the mid-‘90s. There are songs from the 1994 trio with the still much-missed Champ Hood on guitar and fiddle and, from San Antonio, the mysterious Omar Bazazza (Mark Rubinstein) on bass and keys. The majority of the tracks are from a 1995 tour with the great David Hayes on bass and Mark Rubinstein on keys. That trio was very loose and improvisational. Back then I could blast and howl my voice out night after night with absolute vocal cord impunity. I hadn’t heard these recordings or even known they existed until last week. Hearing them was a marvelous experience. Memories washed over me in waves and our improvisations surprised and had me laughing out loud. YEP!, with the Bonus CD, will be released in Italy prior to the upcoming Italian tour (May 17 through mid-June).
October 27 at the Stockton, California Civic Auditorium I’ll be receiving a “Career Achievement Award” from the Stockton Arts Council. I’ve never received any kind of artistic award before in the USA. I feel a bit embarrassed by the honor but I’m kinda’ getting into it now. I was born in Indiana and raised in Sacramento but somehow Stockton became my hometown. This award has me feeling as if Stockton is officially thumbs-upping my long ago adoption. So thank you Stockton! Yay for Fat City, Yaqui Lopez, Nate and Nick Diaz, Captain Webber, Casey at the Bat and all ya’ll who still abide in that cantankerous delta town.