Al Basile has been more a blues mainstay than you might know. Hired by Duke Robillard in '73 as the first trumpet player in the jump band Roomful of Blues, he also sat in with Eddie 'Cleanhead' Vinson, Joe Turner, Johnny Shines, and a number of others. Turns out the guy knew how to write, too, and soon partnered up with Robillard, appearing on a solid 10 of the Duke's releases, playing, writing, and carrying on. Formerly a full-time teacher, Basile in '98 started his own label, Sweetspot Records (not to be confused with the rap/hip-hop Sweet Spot Records), and has gained growing recognition as a North American poet. The guy, as the cover shot for The Goods well attests, looks like a Mafia godfather, or at least a consigliere, carrying his axe in an ominous-looking case—and, yikes!, the label logo sports a Capone-looking baseball bat!—but he sings and plays in a slight-pre- / slightly-post-Motown mode while Robillard wails in the background (esp. check out his gee-tar on 1.834 Million—move over, Yardbirds!—a song which simultaneously demonstrates how cleverly Basile can turn words and scenarios upside down).
The Blind Boys of Alabama appear on Lie Down in Darkness (Raise Up in Light), a great title for an inspirational number that works either spiritually or religiously—and the two, boys and girls, are not the same thing. Basile takes a moral base in all his work, even when it's on the erotic side, as in The Itch, which is and isn't what you think it is (the writerly side of the gent loves double entendre). None of that, however, removes the heat from any of cuts that tend to roofshaking and floor stomping. Al Basile knows where he started, where he wants to be, and how to maintain it all. With an enviable record behind him, The Goods becomes a window on what's in store for the future…and it appears to be a combination of shaking it on down and lion taming conducted by a sly poet-hipster.
Edited by: David N. Pyles
Copyright 2011, Peterborough Folk Music Society.
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