Soul Patrol

Nino Moschella's earthy funk

In the lazy backyard of life, Nino Moschella could easily be the house band. His dusty, lo-fi funk recalls the down-home goodness of a hot afternoon at the county fair — no stretch for this native of the tiny town of O'Neals in the Sierra Nevada foothills. "I guess I'm a country boy. I spent a lot of time running around the hills barefoot, swimming in creeks, and going fishing. I moved to the Bay in '99 and that all changed," says the singer, songwriter, and multi-instrumentalist.

Moschella and his young family have since moved back into the home that he grew up in; the house built by his father in the early '70s outside of Friant and the place where he recorded his first album, The Fix, for Ubiquity Records. "My folks were into what I consider the best music, black American music: gospel, jazz, rhythm & blues, and soul," he says. "They were also into folk music. It was a blessing for this to be part of the every day in our household."

His pop had an R&B band, and soon young Nino was sitting in on drums. "I was about 5 or 6 years old, and fortunately for me [my dad] had the crazy idea that I should keep time for [the group] on the snare drum," Moschella remembers. "That's when it started. I decided I wanted to write songs and sing and started messing around with guitar. Then I got to the bass and keyboards. Drums were a very important element of my musical foundation, just 'cause I believe a solid rhythm concept is such an important thing."

That last sentiment shows through on The Fix, an earthy, soulful session that feels like it was recorded on the Moschella porch. The 29-year-old at times conjures Stevie Wonder ("Are You for Real" and "If You Believe") and Led Zeppelin ("Strong Man" and "Time Would Tell") all the while simmering his funky, blues/rock stew to saucy perfection. His falsetto singing grinds right along with the occasional guitar solo, while organ riffs and rubberband basslines recall a Herbie Mann session at the Muscle Shoals Studio. In fact, Moschella once suggested that his label stock his records between Enrico Caruso and Louis Prima, "in with the other Italian soul singers." That classification isn't too far off, however, as Italia is close to the singer's heart. "Red wine plays a huge role in my life, man! I'm Sicilian, so red wine is more of a nutritional necessity than a casual beverage," he relays. "It can be an effective writing tool as well. The proper dosage can be a beautiful aid to the creative juice."

Well lubricated and properly seasoned, Moschella and crew will be popping up around Northern California this summer, laying down their organic sounds for eager ears. "I'm kinda always workin' on new stuff, but I'm focused right now on playing out and being on the road as much as possible. I've got a great band," he says. His live show comprises Mikey "Natural" Agular on percussion, Kevin "K-Sweat" Hill on bass and tuba, and Tommy Delgado on guitar, with Moschella swinging guitar, keys, and vocals. "We've got my beats on a sampler and everybody singing," Moschella says. "It's cool cause Tommy, K-Sweat, and me have all been playing together for 12 to 15 years, and Mikey's a natural, so it's like family." Together, they bring everything to the show but the rock 'n' roll pyrotechnics. "No, none of that. There's definitely a lot of sweat and some very interesting smells, though," he says, adding, "none of which are unpleasant."

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