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Al Basile Goes 'Mid-Century Modern' in a Funky Blues History Lesson, Sweetspot Records[REVIEW]

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Sep 03, 2016 04:37 PM EDT | Mike Greenblatt (

Al Basile

Singer/Songwriter Al Basile plays the cornet on his new 'Mid-Century Modern.' (Photo : courtesy Sweetspot Records)

Al Basile is that rare Mid-Century Modern (Sweetspot Records) blues singer/songwriter who plays cornet. You'd have to go back to Louis Armstrong for another such rarity. With Duke Robillard producing and playing some guitar (on two tracks), these 13 originals reek of tradition yet strive for modernity. As a result, satisfaction ensues.

The template for his way-cool opener, "Keep Your Love Where's My Money" comes right out of the Slim Harpo handbook. He mentions Little Willie John in "Midnight Blue Persuasion." In track after track, it's almost as if he's paying homage to his forebears but keeping it forward-thinking. That dichotomy rules here. And he's bold enough to try and use "Tickle My Mule" as a pick-up line where he slyly insinuates, "you may be young/you may be smart/do a lotta good deeds/have a pure heart/don't make no difference/gotta follow the rule/there'll be no ridin' unless you tickle my mule."

This is a man who claims "I've Got to Have Meat with Every Meal," a song he started writing 40 years ago as a member of Roomful Of Blues. In "Blank Dog," he fuses the severity of Robert Johnson's 1937 "Hellhound on My Trail" with the arrangement of Lieber/Stoller's 1954 "Riot In Cell Block #9." "Carry These Blues" has the beat used by Clyde Otis in 1957 for "The Stroll," a popular slow dance.

If the listener still hasn't gotten his point, he spells it out in a sage piece of advice, "Listen to the Elders." Why? "They've been where you want to go/they know what you want to know." Ultimately, "because the elders, they're just like you ... plus time."

All this wisdom and history-checking is done to the tune of a crack guitar/keyboards/bass/drums band led by that ever-present cornet and a horn section of bari sax, two tenor saxes, bass clarinet, alto sax and trumpet. It's a total free-for-all with producer Robillard keeping a tight rein on the mix so that it punches with a hard one-two that should fell you into, as I say, a satisfied submission.

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