Al Basile B s Expression

By Lady K
April 2016

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Sweetspot Records, 2015

Around New England, blues fans all know who Al Basile is. He was part of Roomful of Blues in the early 70s - the band’s first trumpet player - and has been active on the blues scene ever since, wowing fans with his songs, his vocals, and his cornet. He’s a professional poet (in addition to the songwriting, singing and cornet playing), so the lyrics he writes for his blues tunes are both lyrical AND poetic. His talent is intimidating and Lady K will try not to make a fool of herself while writing about this man and his music. I’m pretty sure I had the same feeling of inadequacy when I wrote about his album The Goods back in 2011.

Basile’s is joined on vocals by his long-time friend - even before Roomful of Blues days - Duke Robillard. The Grammy-nominated Robillard brought his own band along to join in this recording session. The players include: Robillard (guitars); Mark Texeira (drums, tambourine); Bruce Bears (keyboards); Brad Hallen (bass). Wind instruments are courtesy of more Roomful of Blues talent: Doug James (tenor sax); Carl Querfurth (trombone).

I call Basile’s music ‘gentle blues’ because there is a quiet quality to his productions. And Duke Robillard and his band are the perfect match for Basile. Their music, when accompanying Basile, also feels gentle. The band is there, the band is terrific, but the band keeps Al’s vocals and lyrics front and center.

B’s Expression is comprised of 13 new Basile tunes, and he’s done a lot of the ‘work’ for reviewers because he has not only included all of the lyrics for each track, but also a description of the tune, and why he wrote it the way he did. There’s a little braggadocio in “Whole Lot of Good Good Lovin’”, a slow-ish tempo tune talking about romantic prowess: “Whole lot of good love just goin’ to waste / You’re gonna want more once I give you a taste / Gonna want it all once I give you a little more / Cause it’s the kind of love you never had before”.

Be sure to listen for Duke’s guitar and Bruce, on keyboard, in “It Wasn’t That Good”. The track is about meeting someone who doesn’t measure up to his romantic anticipation: “Good as she felt / I figured I’d melt / I can’t believe it’s not better – it wasn’t that good”. Luckily that’s true only of the woman in the tune, NOT for the blues behind the story.

Because this is the blues, and traditional blues included a little religion, God is mentioned in a few tracks – in a gentle, bluesy, lovely way. In “Have I Given My Best?” the question is one that tends to seep into one’s heart and soul, as the years creep up on us: “Have I given you my best, Lord? / Have I truly earned my way? / Have I given my best, at the end of the day?” The slow-tempo “Even Jesus Fell” reminds that no one is perfect all of the time: ‘Jesus fell – yes He fell, stumbled and fell / It happened to Him on Calvary / So I know it sure, sure can happen to me.”

One of Lady K’s favorite tracks is the mid-tempo “Never Good Enough”, with plenty of Duke’s whiney guitar, backing Basile’s tune about inadequacy: He “put your every wish ahead of my own / all you ever made me feel – never good enough.”

Another fave is the up-tempo swing tune “Something’s Missing” (“Everyone needs a groove or somethin’s missing”.) B’s Expression ends with the mid-tempo, jazzy tune “You Know – You Don’t Know”, which is a perfect track for Hallen to grab a little attention for his stand-up bass.

B’s Expression will be a worthy addition to your blues collection.

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