Sweetspot Records announces a September 15 release date for Quiet Money, the new CD from multiple Blues Music Award nominee Al Basile. Quiet Money was produced by Duke Robillard, recorded by Jack Gauthier at Lakewest Recording Studio in West Greenwich, Rhode Island, and features a baker’s-dozen 13 songs, all penned by Al Basile.
It’s been 44 years since Al Basile joined Rhode Island’s legendary jump blues band Roomful of Blues as its first trumpet player, and while his last few solo releases have moved closer musically to the styles Roomful played in: jump blues, urban and Texas blues, swing, and classic R&B, Quiet Money draws directly from that template. Its songs were inspired musically by Buddy Johnson, Lowell Fulson, Jimmy McCracklin, Saunders King, Charlie Rich, and even the Coasters and the Pilgrim Travelers, but as always Al marries the music to his own personal storytelling lyrics, creating songs that are musically familiar to original Roomful fans, but range in theme from the current state of blues in the music business (“Blues Got Blues”) to classic double-entendre blues (“Put Some Salt on It”) to several songs on taking stock near the end of life (“Not Today,” “Who’s Gonna Close My Eyes?”), and in the title song, wondering why money seems to leave the many and hang out with the few (a song influenced by the hipster ‘50s vibe of the Coasters’ classic, “Shopping for Clothes”).
Having his old Roomful boss, perennial producer, and guitar wizard Duke Robillard on board, along with original Roomful alums Rich Lataille and Doug James in the horn section, ensures that the sonic fingerprints will match up for older fans of that band. The rhythm section from the current Duke Robillard Band: Mark Teixeira on drums; Brad Hallen on bass (with the addition of Bruce Bears on piano and Jeff “Doc” Chanonhouse on trumpet) has provided the underpinning for most of Al’s albums over the last ten years, and they continue to nail every style Al asks them to.
“After a few recent songs based on classic R&B models like Louis Jordan, I went into full nostalgia mode for my old Roomful of Blues days when I wrote this group of new songs,” Basile says about the sessions. “We used to listen to all the flavors of ‘40s and ‘50s R&B, and every kind of blues and jazz, especially from swing to bop, in that band, and our set lists reflected that. I decided to write in that spirit musically, but with my modern lyrical bent as usual, and here’s the result. Of course having Duke, Doug, and Rich along didn’t hurt!”
Al’s unusual combination of singer/songwriter/cornetist continues to come to the fore. In 2016, he was nominated for the 6th time as best horn player by the Blues Foundation, and his 2016 album, Mid-Century Modern, was nominated as best contemporary blues album. His even-more-rare combination of musician and prize-winning poet was underscored by the recent publication of his second poetry book, Tonesmith, by Antrim House.
Al's reviews consistently comment on his strengths as a writer. He uses his lyrics to tell stories with universal appeal, bringing to the task his poet's skills but keeping the words strong, simple, and evocative. There is often a teaching or sharing-of-lessons-learned element in his lyrics. His ease and strength as a singer continues to grow with each release, and his cornet playing is rich, nuanced, and succinct, informed by jazz but instantly communicative as an alternate voice. His songs are all lyrically and melodically deep, and the characters and situations are like compressed theater.
Al is often referred to as the “Bard of the Blues” – he's a rare combination of formal poet and singer/songwriter. He's a model for his generation in showing how to have sequential careers, remain independent, and produce work that is both accessible and thought-provoking. His music sounds good – you can put it on while making dinner – but if you have time for a careful listen – the deeper you look, the more you'll find.