Wednesday, July 11, 2018


My biggest complaint about modern blues artists is that a lot of the run-of-the-mill ones put such little effort into their lyrics. You know the ones, singing about being done wrong by their baby, or waiting for the weekend to let loose. Then comes the guitar solo. Ones who work hard on their lyrics stand out, and Al Basile is certainly one of the best. No surprise, since his other career is as a well-respected poet. While those two aspects always meet in his music, his new album is something special, a true combination of poetry and the blues.

The album is made up of spoken word pieces before each song. Some are part of a narrative, while others are true poems. The story is about a fictional musician, who has a stroke of blues luck. In drastic need of inspiration to help him write songs, but not being good at words, he deserves an old trunk filled with writings, author unknown. The journals are easily adapted into lyrics, and they help his band become stars. We here about how that all goes down, how the musician notices the lyrics mirror his own life, and how, in true blues fashion, fame and fortune doesn't mean happiness. His band mates and friends turn out to be not so trustworthy, his marriage fails, but life's ups and downs bring his strength.

The songs relate to the narrative, and were made to follow the arc of the story. They were recorded with the musicians knowing the spoken section each was following. Produced by the redoubtable Duke Robillard, the mood is right for each one, and it's one of the most engrossing listens I've enjoyed. Basile, already a strong performer, is an equally captivating narrator. His plan almost backfires, as the stories are so engrossing I found myself waiting for the songs to end to hear the next bit of reading. That was just the first listen though, and the music proves strong as well, giving me renewed appreciation for his lyrical abilities. I can't think of a similar blues/story album before, and it's certainly a fascinating listening experience, half-audio book, half-cruising music.

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