(4 / 5)
Ballsy, no holds-barred blues – killer guitar licks and growling vocals from this exciting US artist. His ninth solo album and his third on the German label Ruf Records. Produced by blues star and former member of Supergroup Royal Southern Brotherhood, Mike Zito.
These 11 tracks pack a real punch. Recorded at the famed Dockside studio in Louisiana, coincidentally the same studio where the late and great Chicago blues legend Junior Wells recorded his last album, “Come On In This House” in 1996, featuring a 16-year-old Derek Trucks. Albert played lead guitar for harp star Junior Wells on several world tours.
It doesn’t mess about and is in yer face from the off. The quality and the class shines out in every track and it’s a very even listen in terms of the material. The performances could not be topped.
Albert Castiglia was born 48-years-ago in New York and moved to Miami when he was five. He is based in Florida today. The blues singer, songwriter and guitarist has worked with Junior Wells, Pinetop Perkins, Melvin Taylor, Sugar Blue, Phil Guy, Ronnie Earl, Billy Boy Arnold, Ronnie Baker Brooks, John Prine, Lurrie Bell, Jerry Portnoy, Larry McCray, Eddy Clearwater and Otis Clay, among others.
He cut his debut solo album in 2004 and followed-up two years later with another self-released album. His next four albums were on the New Jersey-based Blues Leaf label. In 2014 he signed to Ruf Records and dropped “Solid Ground”, then “Big Dog” in 2016. He also appears on Ruf’s 2015 “Blues Caravan” album with fellow Ruf artists, and he pops up on two albums from John Ginty.
Castiglia joined the Miami Blues Authority in 1990. After college, he was a social services investigator for four years. But he was discovered by blues legend Junior Wells in 1996, invited to joined his touring band, where he was lead guitarist until Wells’ death in 1998. Living in Chicago, Castiglia toured with Sandra Hall until the end of the century.
Albert’s new record opens with a Mike Zito song, “Hoodoo On Me”, zooming along at 80 mph. It nails a groove and fine driving riff. Snare sits too high in the mix for me, so when the incendiary guitar solo comes in, the snare is quite distracting. A strong start to this 11-song collection.
The Brian H. Stoltz track “I Been Up All Night”, is second in; a decent mid-tempo cut with another growling vocal; wah wah time in the guitar solo. “Three Legged Dog”, is a heavier, rockin’ cut, with a yowling vocal and some fine guitar licks on an Albert Castiglia co-write.
Albert’s song “95 South” treads a little ZZ Top territory, a rocking country blues style cut with some absolutely sizzling slide guitar from the legendary Sonny Landreth, adding some magic. The song penned by Albert, and his vocal here reminded me of the great Delbert McClinton.
“Knocked Down Loaded” has a funky groove to it, nice multi-tracked backing vox from Albert and Mike Zito. A.C. has that Walter Trout ‘rust and razor blades’ vocal goin’ on. More cool axe skills. The hook is ripe for a ‘call and response’ section at a live gig or festival; a perfect audience participation opportunity if ever I heard one!
The pace slows for the superb blues ballad “Quit Your Bitching”, and for me, the best guitar work on the whole album. Controlled, innate, the wafting of an organ (from Lewis Stephens) sat far down in the mix to help create that late night, smoky ambience. Mike Zito’s song writing at its best with this cut, and a perfect fit for this artist methinks.
Jimmy Pritchard’s bass and Brian Menendez’ drums locked tight to set things up for Albert to deliver some spine-tingling licks on his extended solo. Really, really cool. Tiny weenie nods to the likes of Freddie King, Buddy Guy and T Bone Walker.
Luther “Snake Boy” Johnson’s “Woman Don’t Lie”, with a Castiglia arrangement, features fierce attack on guitar in the solo, and a throaty vocal to match. Legendary Neville Brother Cyril teamed up with Albert to pen “Unhappy House Of Blues”, a mid-tempo “Hoochie Coochie Man” template. Moody Chicago blues, with some neat gob iron (aka blues harp!) skills from Johnny Sansone. This track will become a fan favourite, I’d predict.
Albert’s “Delilah” is the sole track here that lost my attention. It’s a decent cut, but didn’t keep me interested. “Chase Her Around The House”, sits on a slight 50s rockabilly vibe. Written by Albert, it’s an infectious affair and his vocal is in fine shape. The guitar solo shows his versatility.
“You Got Me To That Place”, slows things right down; a very nice acoustic flavour rolling blues number. Exposed vocal, a stripped back approach with just acoustic guitars for company. Lovely playing too. Penned by Albert and James Irvin Pritchard, who I am presuming is the bassist on this record.
There’s a shed load of albums that drop through my letter box week in, week out from around the globe, and a good few scream out that this is blues, blues, blues. My thing, talking my language. I grab it, stick it on to play and what do I get, more often than not? Rock. Not ‘the blues’.
Sometimes something that might be loosely termed, ‘blues-rock’, but it is getting to be as likely for me to be sent a real blues album, that is undiluted and not pretending to be something it is not, as it is unlikely to expect POTUS to admit when he is wrong…
Fact: Albert Castiglia has delivered a REAL blues record. Very fine song writing, killer guitar skills – and in the main, he is his own man on those licks and not ‘borrowing’ from every great blues player he’s ever heard, as some do. Strong vocals and superior production values.
It should do very well for him and I can say, it is much stronger than the previous two albums he cut for Ruf, albeit they were both very good releases. A strong contender for blues album of the year for a good few blues writers, I’d bet.
Often, a great guitarist is let down by his or her voice. Not the case with Mr Castiglia. By the way: On Wiki’, it says his vocal style has been compared to Van Morrison. By whom; Helen Keller?
By Simon Redley
(2 / 5) ‘OK Zone’
(3 / 5) ‘Decent Zone’
(4 / 5) ‘Super Zone’
(5 / 5) ‘Awesome Zone’