Monday, September 10, 2012

Albert Castiglia Is Living The Dream

Singer-guitarist Albert Castiglia was a member of Junior Wells Band the last year of Junior’s life. After Wells’ passing the band did some gigs backing vocalist Sandra Hall with Castiglia developing his craft and career in the years since. An energetic guitarist who can rock out, he is also a capable vocalist who has a new release on Blue Leaf, Living the Dream. On this, his band of AJ Kelly on bass and Bob Amsel on drums is augmented by the keyboards of John Ginty with Sandy Mack adding harmonica to a couple of tracks, Jonny Rizzo slide guitar to one and Emedin Rivera adding percussion on two.

The recording a mix of rocking blues and some interesting covers that represent some unusual choices. As a guitarist he certainly can pull out all the stops but even at a rocket tempo, the clarity and articulation in his playing is evident. On the opening title track as he sings about playing the blues wherever he can and the hustlers and sharks one comes across before he takes an explosive solo. I certainly am impressed by his talent even if the performance might be a bit rocked out as a matter of my preference. It is followed by a nice topical blues about us doing clean up for The Man with a latin groove which his rhythm section ably handles under some more guitar pyrotechnics. 

Freddie King is an obvious influence and Castiglia certainly does a fine salute on King’s Freddie’s Boogie, which kicks off in hyper-drive and his mix of chords (in the vein of Magic Sam on Lookin’ Good) and single note runs is exhilarating. He puts plenty of heart singing Little Richard’s Directly From Heart To You, and Ginty takes the first solo on this followed by Castiglia emphasizing the lower end of his guitar’s range. Sometimes You Win represents a change of pace with him on acoustic guitar as he spins a bit of home-grown philosophy in the lyrics, followed by screaming slide on Public Enemy #9, as he sings about being busted in no man’s land with a beer in his hand. 

Sandy Mack adds harmonica to Paul Butterfield’s Lovin’ Cup, a performance that (to this listener) might have benefited from a bit more relaxed tempo and more measured playing. In contrast, the frenzied playing and tempo changes of his original guitar showcase, Fat Cat, seems more realized. I Want her For Myself is a nice acoustic blues with Mack’s harmonic complimenting his solid blues boogie guitar groove. The longest track is a cover of Walking the Backstreets, that most will know from Little Milton’s recording. In addition to a steady vocal, there is plenty of musical heat but also the backing and his playing let the music breathe. Amsel and Kelly display how steady and capable a rhythm section they are here. Castiglia picks up the acoustic guitar for a very engaging rendition of Shakey Jake’s Call Me If You Need Me, before the album closes with a heavy blues-rock rendition of Mose Allison’s Parchman Farm. 

Albert Castiglia is an exceptional guitarist and steady singer who is backed by an excellent band with a fine rhythm section and while Living The Dream will have the most immediate appeal to fans of high energy rocking blues, but there is much that those of us with a more traditional musical bent can enjoy. 

I received my review copy from a publicist.  Here he is performing Walking the Backstreets.

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