Tommy Castro and the Painkillers, StageOne, Fairfield, CT – 3/22
Unusually warm March weather must have reminded Tommy Castro of his home in California and his show recalled another Californian with a knack for channeling Southern soul and Delta blues – John Fogerty. Foregoing the horn section this time around, he led a crackling, stripped down band that added plenty of grit and the boss keeps this version of the Painkillers on their toes by regularly switching around the set list.
Castro is a good singer and a top notch musician, but what sets him apart from the pack is the ability to lift any number of styles from his kit bag and let fly. A veteran of the blues boom of the 1980s, he has developed a supple style that roams the blues-rock spectrum and on songs like “Love Don’t Care” and “Shakin’ The Hard Times Loose”, a voice that brings to mind Delbert McClinton and the late Willy DeVille. Elsewhere the blue-collar groove of “Can’t Keep a Good Man Down”, the title track from his 1997 release, came across much coarser in the club setting. Castro talked of his youth learning songs by listening to records, so we got a trawl through his collection – Howlin’ Wolf’s “44 Blues”, Buddy Guy’s “Let Me Love You Baby” and a loose take on Bob Dylan’s “Gotta Serve Somebody.”
Another highlight came in one of the newer tunes, “Monkey’s Paradise” where the guitar work comes to the fore, with speedy chord changes and a rambunctious rhythm. It’s from Hard Believer, his most recent studio record on Alligator, a label that should be a good fit for him; while the rocking soul of “Old Habits Die Hard” dates from his long ago stint with The Dynatones. Later, ten minutes of John Lee Hooker’s “Serves Me Right To Suffer” at full gallop closed the first set and Byron Cage’s jackhammer drumming saw his sticks splintering, a version that would’ve met with the approval of the Boogie Man himself.
While Holland-Dozier’s “Chairman of the Board” came out four decades ago, Castro’s take on it is a breath of fresh air, but with a familiar scent. Muddy Waters’ “Mannish Boy” had Mark Zaretsky from The Cobalt Rhythm Kings join the stage to play harp, a nice accent. Many in the capacity crowd viewed Castro as an old pal, after a jaw-dropping solo one guy walked up onto the stage to give a high-five, which he got. After thirty-odd years on the road, it’s more than deserved.
Read the article online at jambands.com
Tommy Castro Cranks Out Fine Show at Moondog’s
Tommy Castro wades into the crowd. (Jim White photo)
If the penultimate day of last week was Black Friday, then I guess it was Blue Saturday at Moondog’s, as Tommy Castro brought his crackling band and his soulful self into town.
I knew when I could barely get inside the door halfway through Norm Nardini’s opening act that it was going to be a good night. Moondog’s was packed so tight that it gave new meaning to the phrase “intimate performance.”
By the time Castro came on for his first set, the fans were wired and ready. Fortunately, so was Tommy and his band. It’s fine enough that he works his guitar with power and passion, but when you add in the sax (Keith Crossan), trumpet (Tom Poole) and keyboards (Tony Stead), the band is smart and sharp. Both horn men add punch, but saxman Crossan paints eloquent saxy musical portraits around Castro’s tough guitar and vocals.
Running through songs from his new CD, “Hard Believer” like “Monkey’s Paradise,” “Make It Back to Memphis” and the now very danceable Dylan dirge, “Gotta Serve Somebody” and older favorites like “Nasty Habits” and “High on the Hog,” there were fistbumps between Tommy and front-seat fans, dancing in the aisles, or what passes for aisles at Moondog’s, which is anyplace that you can find room to turn around.
At one point, Tommy noted that his portrait wasn’t on the Moondog’s wall of fame (you can can see at left how well he fits in). Meanwhile, he did everything he needed to do to make the crowd happy — leaving the stage to play among the tables, talking to the crowd, announcing that Jimmy the butcher had come all the way from Youngstown with his family for the show (and even brought some meat).
Castro, of course, brought the raw meat of the blues and all the other soulful, rocking music that he’s so good at. There’s a reason he was named the 2008 Entertainer of the Year at the blues awards.
By the time the band did its extended closer, a tough take on the classic James Brown’s “Get Up (I Feel Like Being) A Sex Machine,” the sweat was flowing on stage and off, and it was hard to tell who was having more fun — but I’ll put my money on the deliriously happy fans.
Tommy Castro Closes Blues on the Mall Series
by Rachael Recker | The Grand Rapids Press
Thursday August 13, 2009, 6:22 AM
GRAND RAPIDS — Blues music filled the air at Rosa Parks Circle, ending the free, 10-week LAV Budweiser Blues on the Mall concert series. Tommy Castro’s five-piece band began at 6:30 p.m. Wednesday, breaking into the crowd of voices rising from Rosa Parks Circle. A grooving instrumental intro was followed by WLAV-FM staff greeting about 6,000 attendees at the last night of the 2009 series, sponsored by Lake Michigan Credit Union. Castro, a favorite in Grand Rapids, hit the stage with his rhythmic R&B and roots music, apologizing for his absence from the series since 2005.
Throughout his two-hour-and-10-minute set — which the 54-year-old mistakenly thought ended at 8 p.m. but was quickly corrected — the California native praised Grand Rapids. “It’s sure good to be back, everybody,” Castro said. “It’s been way too long …. I’m gonna make damn sure it’s not another three or four years …. I missed you guys.” Castro filled his set with old favorites and hits from his new album, “Hard Believer,” released Tuesday. He also dotted his concert with a couple of covers, including a gut-punching rendition of Bob Dylan’s “Gotta Serve Somebody.” While Dylan’s words seem a sage warning, Castro belted the tune as if it was too late and useless to ponder: You are serving somebody, you’ve been serving somebody, so just dance to my music. Which is what Fremont residents Sue and Ted Splitstone were doing — Sue, especially, but Ted wasn’t holding back. “He’s just so energetic. I don’t dance too much, but look, I’m sweating,” he said. “The atmosphere, the music, the people watching — it’s awesome,” Sue Splitstone said.