January 30, 2007 from BLIND PIG RECORDS
available at TommyCastro.com >>
Tommy Castro is one of the most popular and creative roots artists to emerge in recent years. On his newest CD, Painkiller, Castro teamed up with producer John Porter, renowned for his work with a Who's Who list of artists such as Los Lonely Boys, Taj Mahal, Keb Mo, Santana, B.B. King, Elvis Costello, and Buddy Guy. Said Castro, "When I started looking for a producer, I realized that John had produced some of my favorite records of the last ten years. After working with him in the studio, I understand now why that is. With John, everything just seems to be right, all the parts work and flow together."
Everything indeed just seems right on Painkiller. With the Tommy Castro Band (rhythm mainstay Randy McDonald on bass, saxophonist extraordinaire Keith Crossan, and drummer Chris Sandoval) - anchoring the sessions, Porter has fashioned a most tasteful album from the many talented parts of Castro's patented rock 'n' soul music. Special guests Coco Montoya, Angela Strehli, David Maxwell, and Teresa James join in the fun.
Since he first started the Tommy Castro Band sixteen years ago, Tommy's career has been marked by one triumph after another. He's gone from performing at a tiny San Francisco saloon to opening act on B.B. King's national tours and international acclaim as one of the most compelling artists on the scene. Not surprising, given his innate charisma and skills as a supremely talented guitarist, gifted vocalist, and engaging songwriter.
Born and raised in San Jose, California, Tommy expressed interest in learning to play the guitar at age ten. Young Castro was initially inspired by the likes of Eric Clapton, Mike Bloomfield and Elvin Bishop. Later, wanting to know who their influences were, Tommy became enthralled with the guitar playing of B.B., Buddy Guy, Muddy Waters, Elmore James and Freddie King, as well as the vocal stylings of Ray Charles, Otis Redding, Wilson Pickett and James Brown.
Castro went on to play with many Bay Area bands, eventually landing a two year gig touring the U.S. with Warner Brothers recording artists The Dynatones.
In 1991 he formed the Tommy Castro Band, and they quickly became one of the hardest-working and most popular groups in the Bay Area. In 1993 and 1994 they were named "Club Band of the Year" at the Bay Area Music Awards, an especially prestigious honor since it is a write-in category that includes all musical genres. Previous recipients of that distinguished award include Chris Isaak and Huey Lewis and the News.
In 1996 Tommy's first major release, Exception to the Rule on Blind Pig, garnered near unanimous raves from blues and mainstream publications around the world as the press took notice of a great new artist on the scene.
Industry trades took notice as well. Calling him "an up-and-coming blues phenom," Billboard said, "Castro combines the earthy soulfulness of Albert Collins and B.B. King with the polish of Robert Cray." And importantly, radio's insider "bible," The Gavin Report, said of the album: "Castro has etched one of those rare blues records that rises above the usual clichés of the genre. Castro is the awesome exception to the blues rule...the next blues rock hero."
Blues Revue noted, "Castro's energy and charisma leap right out of each and every one of the cuts on the album. Castro's clearly got the goods and knows how to use them." Living Blues offered, "Castro's stinging, clean guitar tone shines. A talented guitarist who shows much promise, Tommy Castro can play with both scorching power and restraint."
Castro released his second album for Blind Pig Records in 1997, Can't Keep A Good Man Down. Grammy award winner Jim Gaines (known for his production with Stevie Ray Vaughan, Santana, and Huey Lewis, among many others) helmed its production and offered listeners a heady mix of Tommy's trademark slashing guitar work and his commanding vocal skills.
The radio trade Album Network said, "This recording burns through a mixture of blues, rhythm & blues and a splash of rock 'n' roll. Castro is the real deal." Castro was featured on the cover of Blues Revue with a highly laudatory feature article (an honor that was repeated with the June 2005 issue). Another national publication, Blues Access, highlighted Castro's burgeoning appeal: "If you're looking for driving blues-rock with soulful vocals and a Southern accent, your search is over. This is party music, good-time music and music with the potential to appeal to an audience outside of the blues crowd."
One recognition of this mainstream appeal came with the selection of the Castro group by HBO Productions as the house band for NBC-TV's "Comedy Showcase," airing after that network's legendary "Saturday Night Live." The band appeared on national television for three consecutive seasons. Castro's music has also been featured in network television programs such as "Nash Bridges" and "The Young and the Restless."
Castro's next recording---produced by the talented Jim Gaines---was 1999's Right as Rain. The CD showcased Castro's music in an engaging program that features guest appearances by roots rock legends Dr. John and Delbert McClinton. Guitar magazine said, "With soulful, no-nonsense vocals and a prevalent horn sound, Castro creates an accessible, Stax/Volt vibe. The guitar soars any time he decides to cut loose, but the songs also benefit from his ability to play with tasteful restraint." Playboy added, "Worshipped for his guitar virtuosity, Castro throws a bit more rock and two bits of soul into his basic blues mix on 'Right As Rain.' He has the voice, the band, and the guitar to pull it off." And perhaps most impressive of all, the readers of Blues Revue magazine voted the disc one of the best 40 albums of all time!
Tommy has wowed and won fans on every stage he's performed on, with his riveting presence growing stronger by the tour. In 2000, to demonstrate Castro's remarkable charisma and ability to command a stage, Blind Pig released Live At the Fillmore, both as a long form video (DVD) and an enhanced CD. The San Francisco Chronicle said, "Castro's loose-jointed blues-rock sound is captured in all its onstage glory. He has distilled the essence of great bar bands everywhere and put his personal stamp on it at the same time." Blues Revue said the live disc "demonstrates Castro's strengths as a singer, guitarist, and bandleader. His rapport with the audience---and his sheer joy in performing---highlight this tight set."
One of the highlights of Castro's career was having the opportunity to open over eighty concert dates for "the King of the blues," B.B. King, in 2001 and 2002. When a teenaged Castro bought his very first blues record (B.B. King's Live at the Cook County Jail) and listened to it incessantly, trying to copy the guitar licks, he never dreamed that one day he'd be sitting side by side on a concert stage actually playing those licks with B.B. himself.
In 2001 Blind Pig released a retrospective of Castro's recordings entitled The Essential Tommy Castro. It contains twelve of Tommy's time-tested fan favorites, including two tracks not previously available on CD, and video footage viewable on CD-ROM. Other additions to his discography include the 2001 album Guilty of Love from the fledging 33rd Street Records label, and the 2003 release Gratitude on his own Heart and Soul label, on which he paid tribute to his influences. He also appeared on the 2003 title from Telarc entitled Triple Trouble, which also features guitarist Lloyd Jones and harmonica/sax player Jimmy Hall.
Castro's triumphant return to the Pig Pen in 2005 was marked by Blind Pig's release of Soul Shaker, his first album of original music in four years. Billboard summed it up best, saying, "Castro emerges here with the most consistently strong group of songs he has ever written - and he wrote or co-wrote every tune. Factor in his accomplished guitar work and the uniformly excellent performance of his band, and it all adds up to the most artistically successful album of Castro's career." Vintage Guitar magazine offered, "Very few voices in the music industry can do this style of music this well."
Castro and his electrifying band got another shot of national television exposure when HDNet filmed the group in live performance at the Sierra Nevada Brewery in Chico, California and broadcast the concert over their high-definition network. Blind Pig released the performance on a DVD entitled Whole Lotta' Soul in 2005. It prominently features material from the highly acclaimed Soul Shaker CD. Vintage Guitar said of the video, "The Bay Area's king of soulful blues delivers the goods in this concert. Castro has been making excellent records for a while, and this give his fans a chance to see his band in action. What you get is not just an incredible show, but incredibly soulful songs."
Tommy Castro and his brilliant band have captured a hold on legions of fans and critics alike around the world with their mesmerizing blend of rock, blues and Memphis soul. On Painkiller, with style and soul, they continue to explore the boundaries of American roots music.