Joe Novelli is a multi-instrumentalist, composer, songwriter, and bandleader, hailing from
New York but currently living in Tucson, Arizona, in the American Southwest. Known
for his genre-bending lapsteel guitar work, Novelli performs internationally with Nive &
the Deer Children (Greenland/Europe), Orkesta Mendoza (Tucson, Arizona), and his
own band The Cloud Walls. As with his playing, Novelli’s compositions are characterized
by a wide sonic palette, drawing from most anything visually and emotively evocative …
ambient soundscapes to dark country balladry, southwestern noir to blistering punk-blues,
cinematic indie folk to good old rock and roll.
As for Novelli’s background, a youth of snow-swept hills, waterfalls, Chuck Berry, and
Miles Davis gave way to an adulthood of perpetual touring throughout the states, Mexico,
Canada, Europe, Asia, and even the fjords of Greenland, passable only by helicopter and
boat. This wandering life, its breadth and want for a sense of place, is at the heart of
Novelli’s concept of music … the auditory and visual having become entirely inseparable,
the imagery of sound.
Presently, the sun beaten paradise of Tucson has come to satisfy both Novelli’s musical
aesthetic and his desire for a beloved home. There is something in the endless, cactus-
strewn desert pastoral, harsh and full of danger, expansive and thoughtful. The Old
Pueblo’s natural and cultural beauty provides a strangely perfect harmony to its raucous,
haphazard jangle of music. Punk-fueled southwestern rock and roll pours out of cracks in
a gangster hotel’s 100 year old windows. Haunting steel guitar waltzes over the drunken
clamor of Tucson’s favorite dive bar. Mariachi horns blast from backyards and grocery
Photo © 2016 Abril Castillo
store aisles. People in the desert are born artists, survivors … they live in color, a laid-back
state of reckless abandon. As local legend Billy Sedlmyer says, Tucson Kills.
Waxing poetic on Tucson may seem tangential to a composer bio. But Tucson is exemplar
of this sensory fusion that so informs Novelli’s composition … sound and image, people,
space, noise, and silence. Trains roll by, snakes rattle, barflies write poetry. Stories happen.
Some kind words on Novelli’s performances:
“Aching Slide Guitar” - HARP Magazine
“Serpentine” - My Old Kentucky Blog
“Breathtaking” - The Ithaca Journal
“Ghostly” - All Music Guide
“Southwestern gothic,” “Chilling slide guitar” - New York Music Daily