Al Basile – Through With Cool
14 songs, 1 hour, 6 minutes
Your friendly neighborhood blues reviewer is a digital music person beholden to my Apple Music subscription. I have not bought many CDs in awhile. But, every once in a while a master artist such as Al Basile makes the physical experience of an album’s package worthwhile. Al’s newest, Through With Cool, does not have psychedelic art work, like for example Jimi’s Axis: Bold as Love. Just tasteful photography of al and his coronet. But, it does offer a glimpse into al’s process by presenting his poetic lyricism in print complimented by musings on each tune. Allowing the listener the immersive experience of listening to and reading his words, while also getting a peak into his process, embellishes the alternatively visceral and cathartic master performances.
Al Basile is continuing his later career prolifically with his 2nd self produced record in just under a year. Having already reached some career high points with his Roomful of Blues running mate Duke Robillard producing and playing, al broke out on his own. He did retain Duke’s stellar band though. Mark Teixeira on drums and Brad Hallen on bass move effortlessly through each Blues motif allowing key-man Bruce Bears (the jovial cornerstone of Greater Boston’s Blues/Bar band community) to add depth and flavor through the ensemble. Long time horn compatriots Doug James on saxes and clarinet and Jeff “Doc” Chanonhouse on trumpet buttress al’s own sparse and emotive coronet playing. As with the last record, B’s Testimony, the proceedings are ripped through with the West Coast bottled lightning of Kid Anderson’s endless font of six string magic.
Al Basile has never sounded so assured and expressive as on Through With Cool. Many years of throat problems have been alleviated allowing al a clarity in timber and range of register he hasn’t employed before. Additionally al is still riding the intensive coronet practice regiment he developed during the pandemic lock down infusing his playing with a Miles Davis economy and depth of emotion. Effortlessly moving through classic marches, rough and ready Chicago struts, Latin tinged syncopated grooves, tender ballads and brash Blues Rock, the band brings multiple lifetimes of experience and skill to bear allowing al to float, swing and stomp with freedom and aplomb.
The real genius of Al Basile is his ability to write simple straightforward lyrics that convey depth of meaning while never sounding contrived. In the abstract love song for a person you haven’t met yet “I’m Waiting” couplets “I’m waiting for the shape of your face/gonna drive out all the others, and take their place” and “I’m thirsty for a sip of your voice/gonna drink my fill when you say I’m your choice” so clearly convey longing while twisting around one’s understanding. Desperation is put into clean relief with sturdy rhyme structure in “Not Any Place at All”:
“I go looking for a letter/But my mailbox is dry
You never send a message/and you never told me why
Used to love to hear you say/you would always be around
If I don’t hear from you baby/I don’t want to hear another sound”
Through With Cool ends with the title track – a simple solo guitar, a kick drum stomp and al making a statement about his convictions as a freed artist. This postscript to the raucous proceedings is a bold and forceful statement in its simplicity. Similar to Buddy Guy’s haunted rendition of “Done Got Old” which is the prelude to his most energetic and daring record Sweet Tea, Al taunts us. Over the 13 previous tracks al has proved that he is the epitome of cool. He is the rebel, the artist who makes art beholden only to his muse. There is nothing cooler. Although Al may think he is through with cool, it is clear cool is not through with him.