Thursday, March 18, 2010
Although he hails from mellow Marin County, home of Carlos Santana and the surviving members of the Grateful Dead, veteran bluesman Tommy Castro’s sound is far from mellow.
The winner of the 2008 Blues Music Award for Entertainer of the Year, he is performing the local debut of Hard Believer, his first album for Chicago-based Alligator Records, at Bankers Casino in Salinas this Friday, March 19.
Castro’s record for the rootsy-but-progressive label, which also records the likes of the Holmes Brothers and Clarence “Gatemouth” Brown, was produced by John Porter, who has previously worked with Elvis Costello, Buddy Guy, Billy Bragg and B.B. King, among others, in Castro’s home town of San Rafael.
Influenced by the likes of Eric Clapton and Mike Bloomfield coming up, the big time musician with small town appeal soon got into the deeper sounds of Chicago bluesmen like Muddy Waters and Elmore James. He and his group, the Tommy Castro Band, who were founded in 1991, were recently featured on the House of Blues Radio Hour.
This year he’s up for four Blues Music Awards, including Band of the Year, B.B. King Entertainer of the Year, Contemporary Blues Band of the Year (for Hard Believer) and Contemporary Blues Male Artist of the Year. (The awards take place May 6 in Memphis.)
His angular, intense sound belies pretension, or riffing for the sake of riffing, getting to the heart of the classic sound of the blues without fuss or muss.
The new album features licks like “Monkey’s Delight,” a funky but straight-ahead tune that delights in the pleasures of traditional blues at the same time it sends up the traditions of the genre. “I’ve got a real bad case of what they call ‘monkey on the mind,’” Castro croons slyly.
Castro’s friend and sometime collaborator Carlos Santana likes seeing Castro helping steer the blues bus. “The blues is in good hands,” Santana once said. “When someone has the right intentions, with sincerity, you can never go wrong. This is the person who has the voice, the sound, and the intentions, to touch everybody’s heart.”
Expect your heart – and soul – to be touched by vintage, timeless sound when Castro and his crew come to Salinas.