Woke Up in Memphis

  • 2014
  • Woke Up in Memphis
  • Al Basile
  • Sweetspot


This review originally appeared in Big City Blues magazine.   Reviewed by Steve Daniels

            If the liner notes of a blues CD reference both Elvis Presley and Leo Tolstoy, you know you're in for something unique.  Al Basile doesn't disappoint.

            One of the many distinguished alumni of the great Rhode Island jump blues combo Roomful of Blues (still going strong after 45 years!), Al Basile follows up his 2012 double CD release "at home next door" with another high quality effort.  Abetted by a group of ace musicians, including several other Roomful alumni, and backed by producer and guitar whiz (and Roomful founder) Duke Robillard, Basile mines the horn-driven blues sub-genre to great effect.

            No slouch as a cornet player — several times Blues Music Award nominee as Horn Player of the Year — Basile delivers several solos of silvery tone and tantalizing groove.  His arrangements of the horn section, also featuring saxophonists Rich Lataille and Doug James, are both sweet and sassy.  Robillard, of course, provides some understated but scintillating guitar solos, and "Make a Little Heaven," a gospel number inspired by a prior collaboration with the Blind Boys of Alabama, benefits from the vocal participation of Sista Monica Parker.

            A veritable Renaissance man, Basile composed all fourteen songs, and his literary skills (he is also a poet and playwright) are revealed in the shrewd, wise, and sometimes risible lyrics.  In "When Things Get Tough," he satirically opines: "When things get tough, the tough get things…so let's buy a Maserati, and see what tomorrow brings."  "Jimmy and Johnny" is a ballad about two best friends parted by a woman and a secret.  The title tune is an ode to the power of music.  "Saved by the Blues" is…well, you guessed it, and "Too Tough" is a tribute to a formidable girlfriend.  There's not one bad song in the bunch, and the album is enhanced by a booklet of liner notes sporting full lyrics and Basile's brief commentary on each cut.

I'm going to be playing this CD a lot.