Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Review: Albert Castiglia's "These Are The Days"

This cd will not be available until April 1st, but I've just got to tell you--make plans now to buy it. It's that good! Albert Castiglia (pronounced "Cas-steeel-lia") and band bring forth a well-done electric blues set on this, their third cd. Everything here is terrific. On every song Castiglia wrings every ounce out of great lyrics and brings his guitar passion front and center. The band consists of Albert Castiglia on guitar and lead vocals, Susan Lusher on keyboards, Steve Gaskell on bass and Bob Amsel on drums. Kenny "Stringbean" Sorenson adds smoking great harmonica on tracks 4, 5 and 11. Rio Clemente adds a churchy organ to track 9, and Sweet Suzi Smith & Nicole Hart add great soulful backing vocals on "Night Time Is The Right Time." Things kick off with the humorous original "Bad Year Blues" and then comes Robert Guidrey's "He's Got All The Whiskey," a lament of loss on several levels, and then a fiery "Loan Me A Dime," the Fenton Robinson song you may remember from the Boz Scaggs version with the Muscle Shoals House Band and Duane Allman from Boz Scaggs' self-titled debut album. Castiglia doesn't quite reach those esteemed heights here, but he doesn't get embarrassed by the comparison either. There is a loving original tribute to his late mentor, Junior Wells, on "Godfather of the Blues," and then the centerpiece of the cd--three great tunes done absolutely great--"Celebration" by Graham Wood Drout, "Night Time Is The Right Time" and Bob Dylan's "Catfish." The guitar solo on "Catfish" is, all by itself, a sign of Albert's promise of a bright future. And things don't drop off after that--there are a couple more Castiglia originals, ("Another Bloody Day" and "Twister") the wonderful "Need Your Love So Bad" and the cd wraps up with "Blues For Evan," an impressive instrumental that features Stringbean and Albert trading licks like they've played together forever. I've been listening to Albert play and grow and develop for years now, and this is the cd I've been waiting for. It should catapult Albert Castiglia to the top rank of blues artists.

Friday, March 7, 2008

REVIEW: "Recapturing The Banjo" Otis Taylor

Can I tell you something? I have to admit that for a long time in my younger days I believed comedian Steve Martin's adage "you can't play the blues on the banjo." Steve, I'm sorry, but you were wrong. Exhibit A is this new cd by Otis Taylor "Recapturing the Banjo" (2008, Telarc) Please don't pass this up because you can't get your head around blues and banjo at the same time. It's loaded with good music, good BLUES music, good banjo music and guitar and mandolin and harmonica and everything else--just good music. Otis brings in Guy Davis, Corey Harris, Keb Mo, Don Vappie and Alvin Youngblood-Hart and they all let it rip. It's a cornocopia of joys--if you like Keb Mo he's in here. If you like Alvin Youngblood-Hart he's in here. If you like Guy Davis, he's in here. Everybody takes a turn at lead, everybody plays banjo, everybody plays guitar. There are places on this cd where you'll hear 4 banjos playing great at the same time--and if you can stay seated you ought to check your pulse. You might be dead! Included here is a great version of Gus Cannon's "Walk Right In" and what I think is THE best version of "Hey Joe" since Hendrix or Roy Buchanan strapped on a guitar.

I'm feeling a bit hesitant--I've written 4 or 5 rave reviews in a row. I can hear one of you saying "But Bruce, help me out here. What should I get if I can only get ONE?" Well, there are stacks of cds in the world and I know everybody has a limited amount of disposable cash, but hey, skip a meal and buy something, ok? You won't be disappointed with anything I review.