Multi Blues Music Award nominee Al Basile brings his original songs and stories to life on the new CD, Me & the Originator, releasing June 15 on Sweetspot Records. Produced by Duke Robillard, who also adds his guitar talents on the new disc, Me & the Originator showcases Al’s abilities as a storyteller in poems and songs, and as a vocalist and cornet player, backed by an additional group of New England-based all-star musicians, including Mark Texeira (drums), Brad Hallen (bass), Bruce Bears (keyboards), Doug James (tenor and baritone sax) and Jeff “Doc” Chanonhouse (trumpet).
Al Basile, who is also a prize-winning poet, will celebrate the release of the new CD by performing Me & the Originator as a one-man show at the West Chester Poetry Conference, West Chester, Pennsylvania, on Saturday, June 9, from 3:30-4:45 pm.
“For the 20th anniversary of my Sweetspot label, I wanted to do something different,” Basile says about the new project. “Inspired by the running narrative between the songs on Louis Armstrong: My Musical Biography, I decided to tell a story about an imaginary musician who found lyrics, set music to them, but never admitted he didn't write the words after he got famous. It's a story about blues songs – how they came to be, and who can claim them as theirs, that speaks to the history of the music as we've inherited it. The story is told by the narration and the songs working together.
“Many people know me as a musician, and many others as a poet. I wanted to create a project that required both of my creative hats at once. I don't know how often people have told a story using poems and songs which work together this way, but it's something that I'm especially equipped to do. It fits in the category of a blues album, but it's something different, something more.”
Basile’s last album, Quiet Money (2017), continued to build on his legacy as the “bard of the blues,” combining superb blues and roots music within the framework of intelligent and insightful lyrics, garnering him yet another Blues Music Award nomination for his horn playing. He also received a 2016 Best Contemporary Blues Album nomination for Mid-Century Modern.
“I had told the story of this character in poetic form in my first book A Lit House,” Basile offers. “Those interested in what happened eventually to him can find out by reading ‘Leaving Trunk’ in that book. I decided to write a dozen new songs, and have the character comment in poems about how the songs came to be written, and how they related to his own life. I planned to read the poems in the voice of the character, and have Duke Robillard play solo guitar lead-ins for each one (he came up with spectacular introductions, as you'll hear).
“The circumstances under which the disc was recorded were unusual. I had written the songs and the poems which tell the story very early on for me – it was all written by May of 2017. I spent the summer recording demos and making arrangements, and was finished by September. We were scheduled to record in January. I fell ill in October, and was very limited in what I could do physically going into the winter – but I'd finished the work early so I was lucky. I made being able to run the session, sing and play the goal of my recovery, and was able to hold up my end when the time came. Of course Duke and the guys helped me out tremendously.”
Arranged in a lavish multi-panel CD booklet that includes all the lyrics to the songs, as well as the stories behind them, Me & the Originator is an exciting and nourishing reading/listening experience.
“Because I'd finished the writing so early, I decided to try a different approach to recording,” Basile adds about the studio work. “Usually we track the songs in an order that makes sense for the way the day is unfolding rather than in any particular order. The sequence is determined later in the project, when we're done with the mixes. This time, I gave the guys advance notice of the narration (even though they wouldn't be playing on those tracks) so they would understand the story and how the songs fit in. I'd already decided the sequence while writing the narrative and the songs – planning grooves and keys to lead the listener through the story of the narrator's life. Then we actually recorded the songs in sequence – that way the guys could attend to details knowing exactly what the listener would have heard in the preceding song, and what the next one would be like. This involved the players on a new level, and I think it shows in the flow of the album – there's a natural inevitability that leads you through the story.”
For more information, visit www.albasile.com.