O.A.K is the musical project of Italian multi-instrumentalist, composer and vocalist Jerry Cutillo. The wonderfully named Nine Witches Under A Walnut Tree is the third in an esoteric trilogy of albums, which started with Viandanze in 2016 and Giordano Bruno (see review) in 2018.
This is a musical journey exploring the lives of nine disparate women, all witches, who come from all over Europe. Cutillo tells their stories through contrasting but always mystical compositions.
The scene is set with Choldswinda, the sounds of horses, swords and heavenly voices opening this ravishing folky mandolin-led song, Cutillo's vocals adding depth and colour. Jonathan Noyce (Jethro Tull and Gary Moore) makes the first of his four appearances on bass here.
Gioconna has a flute driving the musical story until soprano Tetyana Shyshnyak provides an operatic interlude into the song, which would not sound out of place on a Jethro Tull album.
A sumptuous grand piano played by Daniele Fuligni (Mr. Punch) introduces Dame Harvillers, another engaging song that features some layered keyboards and synthesisers.
Janet Boylan has a watery introduction followed by a perky piccolo medieval sounding melody line, which lilts along, giving the feel of walking through a wooded glade.
Far more dramatic, Franchetta Borelli encompasses the spooky and slightly scary, Cutillo's vocal both expressive and precise in telling her story, a jazzy Rhodes piano another feature of this fascinating track.
For something completely different, Polissena transports us back into the Middle Ages, its crumhorn and stately rhythms alternating with winding synthesiser passages. Throw an intriguing flute and bass section into the mix, it is probably the most eclectic of all the songs here.
Van Der Graaf Generator's legend David Jackson joins Cutillo on the grander, slower Donna Prudentia, his saxophone providing another texture in this brooding song.
Dreamily, Nadira floats along in a cocoon of acoustic guitars, flute, synth strings and seductive vocalisms from Cristiana De Bonis.
The final witch is Rebecca Lemp sung in German, Noyce's bass very much to the fore, together with mandolin and Gerlinde Roth's spoken words.
Overall, Cutillo has delivered an intriguing and fascinating album, each song crafted differently to characterise each of the witches on their individual journeys.
*** Alison Reijman
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