Al Basile review…May 23, 2014….

AL BASILE

WOKE UP IN MEMPHIS

SWEETSPOT RECORDS  SST 9482

YESTERDAY YOU LEFT–DON’T MAKE ME BEG–WHEN THINGS GET TOUGH–ONE MORE STONE IN THE PITCHER–I WOKE UP IN MEMPHIS–JIMMY AND JOHNNY–SAVED BY THE BLUES–NIBBLIN THRU THE FENCE–MAKE A LITTLE HEAVEN–FALLING STARS–TOO TOUGH–BIG LIKE ELVIS–YOU CHOOSE ME–MASKED MAN

Al Basile’s prowess as both a songwriter and a cool vocal storyteller has earned him the moniker of “THe Bard Of The Blues,”  On his latest album, he’s teamed up with some old (and new) friends to release “Woke Up In Memphis,” fourteen originals that would’ve been right at home on the Stax or Hi labels back in the late-Sixties, when Al and Duke Robillard were putting together what would become Roomful Of Blues.

That’s part of what makes Al’s albums so special.  They serve as a reunion of sorts, as Duke handles production duties and plays guitar throughout.  Joining them are Rich Lataille and Doug James on saxes, (the perfect complement to Al’s cornet), Bruce Bears on keys, Brad Hallen on bass, Mark Teixeira on drums, and special guest vocalist Sista Monica Parker.  Most of these folks have played with Al for over twenty-five years, and are readily familiar with how he likes to present his songs.

When Al writes a song, his intent is for the listener to do just that–listen, so that proper lyrical interpretation is achieved.  Take the girl in “Too Tough,” for eaxample.  Duke lays down a smooth-as-silk groove as Al lets us know that she may be “too tough for those younger guys, but she’s never too tough for me!”  The set opener recounts a broken love affair, and, if one is lucky enough, one day is all it takes to learn your lesson, as “Yesterday you Left, today you learn.’  Bruce Bears adds a fine B-3 solo as does Al on cornet on “One More Stone In The Pitcher,” a song about patience and perserverance.  “Masked Man” takes a veiled look at the Russian Emperor in Tolstoy-era “War And Peace” thru the eyes (mask, perhaps?)  of the Lone Ranger character that we grew up with, while “Make A Little Heaven” features Sista Monica Parker on duet vocals, as she and Al encourage us all to share faith, kindness, and mercy when there’s not enough to go around.

We had two favorites, too.  “Saved By The Blues” has a bit of a gospel feel as Al learns to “be myself” instead of “trying to step in somebody else’s shoes.”  and the Duke provides a tasty solo mid-song.  And, another one you MUST listen to all the way thru is “Big Like Elvis,” where our hero wants to “give all my friends Cadillacs,” but he has a darker side.  That side wants to round up all his nay-sayers and, “with a big gun, make ’em all pay,” and shoot something besides the TV screen in the Jungle Room!”

“Woke Up In Memphis” is Al Basile’s tenth solo CD, and his last four sets have each made the “Living Blues” Top 15.  This one, with its unique blend of blues, gospel, and R & B, is certain to raise the bar even higher for this outstanding bluesman!  Until next time…Sheryl and Don Crow, Nashville Blues Society.

 

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