FAME Review: Al Basile - Woke Up in Memphis
Al Basile - Woke Up in Memphis

Woke Up in Memphis

Al Basile

Sweetspot - SST9482

Available from Al Basile's web site.

A review written for the Folk & Acoustic Music Exchange
by Mark S. Tucker

Al Basile's back (he's never away for long, y'all, so don't get nervous) and once again produced by Duke Robillard, who also provides all the guitar work, slanting big time into Steve Cropper territory on Yesterday You Left, the very first cut, a heavy duty trip into old Motown ambiances…or, if you prefer, tracing back to the CD title, Memphis. Makes no difference, as Al's equally at home on both fronts. Were Wolfman Jack still around and flippin' discs over the airwaves, he'd be one of Basile's biggest fans, and the famous ol' fictional XERB would be flooded with cuts from the nine releases so far issued by the singer / cornetist.

Early on in the disc, I located my favorite track: One More Stone in the Pitcher. At first, I wasn't sure why. Bruce Bears' keyboards were a big factor, atmospheric and roomy, and the rock steady beat (thank goodness Mark Texeira's returned on drums) bent the track into a later 60s manifestation while Basile's brief but crucial horn work offset everything in a jazzy aside, but it finally hit me: of all the songs presented, it had the kinda oomph I dig, a bit sassy with a solid sway, confident and learnt-my-damn-lesson moralistic, but also just a tad artier, almost progressive for this modality yet perfectly architected, the kind of composition that'd come through shining and unruffled in a windstorm.

Saved by the Blues follows suit, and then Big Like Elvis gets cocky and strutty while laying back a bit, sugary smile wreathing the song, a success fantasy but also a satire on the sort of open-handed over-confidence and cornucopia of rue and revenge we all too often hear from those we know will never attain to their egotistical dreams. Basile, y'see, likes taking others' POVs, conceits, and foibles in the same way novelists craft characterizations in their inky work. On the other hand, Al's self-revelatory, Everyman philosophical more than a few times, especially in the duet with Monika Parker in Make a Little Heaven, which kinda deposes the old Christian afterlife sales pitch for a zenlike appeal that "When the Gates of the Kingdom are just too far / (You've got to) Make a little heaven right where you are". Amen to that, brother, especially in these times, and Woke Up in Memphis ain't a bad way to do so. Toss it in the player, turn the volume up, grab a few sixers, invite friends over, and forget that bankers and politicos are ruining the world. You can worry about that tomorrow, today you deserve a little 'you time'…no, make that a LOT of 'you time'. Play the CD more than once.

Track List:

  • Yesterday You Left
  • Don't Make Me Beg
  • When Things Get Tough
  • One More Stone In The Pitcher
  • I Woke Up In Memphis
  • Jimmy & Johnny
  • Saved By The Blues
  • Nibblin' Through The Fence
  • Make A Little Heaven
  • Falling Stars
  • Too Tough
  • Big Like Elvis
  • You Choose Me
  • Masked Man
All songs written by Al Basile.

Edited by: David N. Pyles

Copyright 2014, Peterborough Folk Music Society.
This review may be reprinted with prior permission and attribution.
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