Tommy Castro goes for the throat, emotionally, no matter if he’s playing straight blues, funk, or good old-fashioned rock and roll. This album is a good case in point.
It’s set up as a “thank you” to folks who have influenced Castro through the years. Anyone familiar with his music won’t be surprised to find songs by folks like Sam and Dave, B.B. King, James Brown, Howlin’ Wolf, Chuck Berry, Buddy Guy, and numerous others.
Each and every one of the 12 cuts here is a stone-cold killer. You’ll know some (maybe all) of the tunes. The album, while reverent, doesn’t out-and out copy the originals. It keeps the feel but adds Tommy’s spice to the mix. Check out his tribute to B.B., “Bad Case of Love.” It’s a nod to a master, but Tommy’s great vocal and wonderful solo out are infused with his own sense of style. And that goes for the whole record.
Tommy’s playing is muscular and tight. At times it’s in your face, and other times subtle as can be. The tone is usually what I like to call “big fat Strat;” nice and full-bodied, but with that Fender edge. Check out his playing on the classic John Lee Hooker tune “It Serves You Right to Suffer.” The deep blues of the first couple of minutes turns into a hyper boogie, with Tommy and the band not missing a beat. And at seven minutes in length, it gives him a chance to show his stuff.
Tommy’s vocals are a treat, too. Somewhere between a rock and roll shouter and a Chicago blues man, his singing is about as soulful as it gets. You can sample great singing on pretty much every track, but one of my favorites is Albert King’s “Everybody Wants to Go To Heaven.” Right after, listen to “I Found a Love,” Tommy’s tip of the cap to Wilson Pickett, and you’re in soul heaven.
This album works on a couple of levels. As a tribute, it’s fitting. As a balls-out blues-rock album, it’s a winner.
This article originally appeared in VG‘s Dec. ’03 issue. All copyrights are by the author and Vintage Guitar magazine. Unauthorized replication or use is strictly prohibited.