It’s a bit of a head scratching-moment for new audience members when La Terza Classe begins a set.
One goes in expecting something Italian — or at least European — after seeing the group’s name, and then the musicians do something wholly unexpected.
They play American bluegrass.
“It’s euphoric, it’s festive,” said Josh Read, co-owner of Fifth & Federal Station, where the band will play a show on Nov. 21.
“Not too many bluegrass bands in the U.S. play a flute. One of these guys whips out a flute and starts playing it. That’s sort of rare.”
Born in Naples — Italy, not Florida — the members of La Terza Classe forged a connection through the folk music of Bob Dylan and Neil Young, wrote vocalist Pierpaolo Provenzano in an email.
“We discovered the roots of this music, and the bluegrass came out, and we loved the feeling and the harmonies,” he wrote.
Bluegrass bands, said Provenzano, are not that common in Italy, making La Terza Classe something of a rarity.
This is what makes having them visit Lynchburg so exciting, says Read.
“They’ve sort of extracted that bluegrass that’s lived in the mountains here for hundreds of years, and now they’re replicating it back in Europe, which is pretty wild,” he says.
Since its start in 2012, La Terza Classe has released three albums, including a self-titled EP, which dropped last month.
Unlike its previous music, which reimagined bluegrass standards like “Nine Pound Hammer” and “Lonesome Stranger,” the new EP features five original songs.
According to the band’s website, La Terza Classe was the focus of an award-winning documentary, “Flat Tyre: An American Music Dream,” which chronicled its first visit to the U.S. “to discover the roots of American folk music.”
The group also appeared on “Italia’s Got Talent” and in Sky Arte’s “On the Road: Joe Bastianich Music Tour” and played at The Caverns in Tennessee as part of Bluegrass Underground.
“These guys have so much heart and courage to come over here to the United States,” multi-award-winning musician Jim Lauderdale said when he introduced them on the weekly radio show and webcast “Music City Roots” in 2014.
Before the show in Lynchburg, Provenzano talked about the band’s name and playing American bluegrass in Italy.
Where does the name La Terza Classes come from? What is the meaning behind it?
“The name comes from the ‘third class’ [sections on] the big ships between Europe and Americas. The guitar player’s cousin, attended one of the band’s first shows [and] noticed that our sound was very similar to the bands of musicians on that kind of transatlantic [voyage].”
What is it like playing American bluegrass in Italy?
“People don’t really know about this music, so [it] is very fun to let them discover it. We’ve been able to mix the bluegrass sound with our personal and ‘international’ sound.”
In 2016’s “Folkshake,” you recorded your own interpretation of classic bluegrass songs. How did you put your own spin on these classics?
“We gave some speed [to] the songs and a different and free interpretation of the harmonies.”
You also appeared in a documentary about your first trip to the U.S. Can you tell me about your journey?
“Our music research in our journey in America took place in the Southeast of the country. We’ve been on the Appalachian Mountains to find the true bluegrass music and hillbilly music. Also, we’ve been researching about swing music, reaching New Orleans.We got the chance to meet Sam Bush and other incredible musicians of the bluegrass scene in Nashville and North Carolina where the folk music is everywhere.”
You released a self-titled EP in October. Is there a theme to this album?
“This EP reflects the growth of the band. [It] is the perfect mix between our traditional roots and our fresh and new way to look at the world.”