Tommy Castro – Gratitude
In many respects, Gratitude the seventh release by the Tommy Castro Band represents a culmination. At root, it is retrospective a tribute record that amply showcases Castro's own epic blues guitar - playing and limber vocal genius. It is simple in execution (most all of the vocals and solos were cut live with the band), but immense in impact. "We went into the record intending a much more complicated production", says Tommy. But after we listened back to the initial tracks, everything already sounded so spontaneous and spirited, we figured we'd better not mess with it too much."
Of course not. It's been the ability of Castro and his band to electrify a live audience that, within the course of just a few short years, has taken them from San Francisco fame to international acclaim. Having toured with such acts as B.B. King, Robert Cray, Jonny Lang and the late John Lee Hooker, Tommy has become firmly-established as one of the premiere and most compelling artists on the blues scene. Blues Review said, "Castro's energy and charisma leap right out", and The Gavin Report lauded his song writing as consistently rising above usual clichés of the genre. "Castro is the awesome exception to the blues rules the next blues rock hero."
Even as a tribute album, Gratitude is forward thinking, in that its release represents the launching of Castro's own label, Heart & Soul Records (which has licensed the CD to Dixiefrog). A career move toward the ultimate artist-friendly environment seems natural for someone of Tommy's stature, but it is also indicative of his integrity that he works so tirelessly to preserve the legacies of his heroes. He understands that the future of the blues is in knowing its past. "These are the cats that turned me onto music in the first place. Their stuff had such a powerful effect on me, I didn't have a choice. I had to learn to play and sing!"
The result is an old-time gritty affair that exudes the joy of getting to perform material by 12 of Tommy's rock-n-soul heroes -- Sam & Dave, Ray Charles, Otis Redding, Howlin' Wolf, BB King, Chuck Berry, John Lee Hooker, James Brown, Albert King, Wilson Pickett, Muddy Waters and Buddy Guy. "Always creating your own music can be a heavy trip," laughs Castro. "This whole record is just about having a blast playing great songs by all the cats I like. And we couldn't even come close to fitting them all in I guess we'll just have to make another one."
1. It Serves You Right To Suffer - 6:58 2. Bad Case Of Love - 4:59 3. Tulane - 4:19 4. I Wants To Be Loved - 2:29 5. Come Back Baby - 5:44 6. Lovey Dovey - 4:59 7. Everybody Wants To Go To Heaven - 4:59 8. I Feel That Old Feeling Coming On - 4:22 9. I Take What I Want - 4:08 10. When My Left Eye Jumps - 6:17 11. 44 - 4:46 12. I Found A Love - 4:09
Tommy Castro (guitar, vocals) , Randy McDonald (bass) , Billy Lee Lewis (drums) , Keith Crossan (saxophone) , Tom Poole (trumpet) , John Turk (piano, organ, backing vocals on 12) , Curtis Salgado (harmonica on 3, vocals on 3,9, backup vocals on 12) , Sista Monica Parker (vocals on 6)
1. AllMusic - Hal Horowitz
As its title suggests, Tommy Castro's seventh album is a note of thanks to the artists who inspired the West Coast guitarist/vocalist. While rocking R&B and blues greats like B.B. and Albert King, Chuck Berry and Buddy Guy are obvious choices, Castro digs deep into their catalogs. He covers B.B. King's "Bad Case of Love," Albert King's "Everybody Want to Go to Heaven," Berry's "Tulane," andGuy's version of Willie Dixon's "When My Left Eye Jumps." More interesting, though, are Castro's '60s soul roots which he acknowledges in versions of songs made popular by Wilson Pickett (a powerful "I Found a Love"), Sam & Dave (Curtis Salgado joins in on a duet of "I Take What I Want"), Otis Redding(a thumping "Lovey Dovey" with Sista Monica Parker taking the Carla Thomas part) and James Brown (a swinging "I Feel That Old Feeling Coming On," which is a departure from Brown's usual funky work). Less successful are Castro's takes on Howlin' Wolf's "44" where his direct approach loses the original's voodoo marching vibe. John Lee Hooker's "Serve You Right to Suffer" sounds more like theJ. Geils Band's cover than Hooker's spooky approach, with an ill-advised rocking middle section that misses the song's intent. Much better is Castro's succinct, sharp cover of Muddy Waters' "I Wants to Be Loved" where he toughens up the attack but maintains the tune's defiant drive. Pianist John Turk helps fatten the sound, keeping it raw with his work on the album's slow blues workouts such as Guy's "...Left Eye" and Ray Charles' "Come Back Baby." Castro is loose and tough, with his gritty voice and thick, clean guitar lines sounding confident and assertive. More than just a holding pattern until he writes new tunes, Gratitude is not only an enjoyable peek inside Tommy Castro's influences but a fascinating compilation of generally underexposed material from blues, soul and R&B greats.
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