Thursday, December 27, 2012

At Home Next Door reviewed by Steve Jones

At Home Next Door
Al Basile
Sweetspot Records
2 discs, 14 and 13 tracks

Al Basile is the cornet player whose rise to fame came via New England’s Roomful of Blues. At Home with the Blues is a celebration of Al Basile and his 15 years on Sweetspot Records. The 13 remastered tracks here are from Al's 1998 to 2010 Sweetspot releases, featuring with Duke Robillard and many of the best blues-men from the Northeast. Also included is a new acoustic blues song called “80 Bells.” On the new track we have Al on vocals and Duke soloing on acoustic guitar. I sall not belabor reviewing previously released cuts– the 13 remasters are excellent songs from The Tinge, Blue Ink, Grovin’ In The Mood room, Soul Blue 7, Down on Providence Plantations and Shakin’ the Soul Tree; these are mostly straight up and cool blues done in Al’s soulful style. The added cut is just Al and Duke, bare bones singing and strumming and it sound beautiful, a fitting close to a CD of other great blues tunes.

The second CD is Next Door to the Blues, a collection of 13 new roots and soul songs with what is touted as a “60s Memphis R&B flavor.” Also featured are Duke Robillard, the Duke Robillard Band, the Roomful of Blues alumni horns, and special guest Scott Hamilton on tenor sax. This is a great group of songs done by this exemplary vocalist and cornet player!

Al opens with “Too Much Like Fate”, a swinging song that features the horns and has some campy, fun lyrics. Gospel references in “Stony Ground” are intentional; or are they? Maybe Al’s just telling it like it is. “Only Jodie Knows” is Al’s take on a “Jodie” song, many of which have been written over the years; this one has a nice little swing to it. “A Mystery to Me” is a lamentful, sad ballad of lost love where the horns and organ set the tone.

“She Was Sayin’ Giddyup (I Was Sayin’ Whoa)” is all about the woman wanting things to progress faster than Al desired and vice versa. Duke lays out a nice solo here. “A Little Too Far” features a nice cornet solo with Duke coming in smoothly afterward. It also features a distinct, groovy bass line. “Miss Dissatisfied” sings of the chic who never is happy even when she gets her way all the time. A husband and wife have it out over an errant butt call on his cell phone exposes some potential wrongdoing in “My Phone’s Got a Mind of Its Own.” Lot’s of nice brass and organ on “The Streak,” a song about being confident when you know you’re on a streak. Lots of good songs with some touching and some tongue in cheek topics are featured here!

I’ve been trying to come up with a vocal style to compare Al to. Maybe if Louis Prima was born a half century or so later in Massachusetts, attended school in New England and took a less comical approach to his music, you would perhaps have Al Basile. While they are not altogether similar, I get a lot of that breathy vocal approach, with the end of each vocal line tailing off just a bit. In any case, this is a very nice pair of CDs. Two for the price of one: a retrospective and some new stuff. How can you miss? Fans will enjoy this and new comers to Al’s music can gain an appreciation for his blues and see what else he can do stylistically! I recommend this album!

Reviewed by Steve Jones

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