Tuesday, August 31, 2010

My Top Ten "Desert Island Discs"

I wrote this for Facebook this afternoon, and after I thought about it for a while thought I should post it here as well. These discs cover a wider spectrum of music than I usually discuss here--they aren't blues (well, the Sean Costello and Cee Cee James discs are blues) but this has been my personal Top Ten for a while now. Each is highly recommended.

Bob Dylan -- "Blood On The Tracks." Can it possibly be that I've spent 35 years with this record? Its music and words are just part of the substance of my life, they're in my blood like holy wine--to quote Joni Mitchell. I might have chosen five other Bob Dylan records, but this one will stand in for all the rest.

Emmylou Harris -- "Pieces of the Sky." It came out the same year as Blood on The Tracks, and over the years I have found so much in these two records that if I pick one, I better pick them both. l could have chosen only the single "Boulder to Birmingham" and that would be enough, but Emmylou's voice and the quality of her work over the length of this record--and her career--mean so much to me. One of my heros.

Uncle Tupelo -- "Anyodyne." First time I heard this it opened up the top of my head and rearranged the way I heard music.
Sometimes I listen for the faster Neil Young-ish songs, sometimes for the slower Gram Parson-ish ones, but I can never turn it off until I've heard the whole record. These guys and the Clash were just the top of the top for me, for a long time, and I still listen to them over and over.

The Clash -- "London Calling." To me it has always been scary how great this is. An amazing album, with a deep connection all the way back to Woodie Guthrie. Folk music for the 80s. You hardly ever find music this real, and almost never find music this deep.

James Brown -- "20 All Time Greatest Hits!" I'd pick this only for "Papa's Got A Brand New Bag," but I guess I need the whole record. If I'm on a desert island I've got to have some dance music. JB brought the joy--I miss him and Otis Redding nearly as much as I miss my own mother.

Otis Redding -- "Live in London and Paris." I've got to include some Stax/Volt. Booker T & the MGs and the Mar-Keys provide the music, Otis sings the enthusiasm and the love. Those lucky people in Europe got to hear some of the very best music made during my lifetime. They're another disc of Otis out there called "Live at the Whiskey" which is pretty good too.

Sean Costello -- "We Can Get Together." Has to be one of my desert discs, because I don't know how I got along without it before 2008. Sean could do it all--great guitarist, great singer, great writer. I was just beginning to look forward to the next twenty years of his musical journey when Sean died 3 months after this record came out. What a great send off.

Cee Cee James -- "Seriously Raw." This is a great live disc by a great singer. Cee Cee lays it all on the line, and she makes you believe every word. And she's backed by one of the best blues band around right now--Chris Leighton, Dan Mohler, Rob Andrews, Jason Childs. Heir to the throne that Janis Joplin used to occupy.

Sam Baker -- "Cotton." Sam Baker did something nobody else has ever done--the first time I listened to this record I wept at the beauty of it. I list this one to stand in for all the great singer-songwriters like Guy Clark, Steve Earle, Townes Van Zant, Robert Earl Keen, but Sam Baker doesn't have to take a back seat to any of them. My son Chris tipped me off to this one.

And last but not least: CSNY -- "Deja Vu." I've been listening to this one forever, and I've never grown tired of it.

If I added one more and could make it Top 11, I would choose the Allman Brothers Live at the Fillmore East.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Albert Castiglia "Keepin On"

Albert Castiglia is a great guitarist and singer, but that's not the best thing about this new cd "Keepin On," out August 10 on Blues Leaf Records. The best thing is that Albert keeps getting better. I listened to Castiglia's work from "Burn" (2002) to "A Stone's Throw" (2006) to "These Are The Days" (2008) and now this new cd "Keepin On" (2010) and the growth is remarkable. Albert's guitar playing is hotter, better, cleaner and his singing stronger, more emotive than ever before. Albert and his band, bassist AJ Kelly and drummer Bob Amsel, kick things off with the Sir Mack Rice-penned "Cadillac Assembly Line." Check out the first time Albert did this song, on "Burn" and compare that take with this one. Albert did a good job of covering Albert King on the 2002 cd, and this time out he completely knocks it out of the park. Next Castiglia does a great job on a Bob Dylan song, this time with "Till I Fell In Love With You," a talent that he has used to good effect previously with "Catfish." Next up are a pair of originals, "Mojo 305," an instrumental which showcases the talents of this three-piece band, and "Keep On Keeping On," which features a great Credence Clearwater Revival-style guitar melody broken up by one of Albert's finest solos yet. That is followed by a cover of T-Bone Walker's "My Baby Is Now On My Mind," which in less than 4 minutes amply illustrates the genius of both T-Bone and Albert's guitar work, which is followed by a cover of Peter Green's "Could Not Ask for More," with guests Bill "Mighty" Quinn on piano and an uncredited Sandy Mack on harmonica.

Then comes a wonderful break--Albert on acoustic guitar with Toby Walker on dobro for "Sweet Southern Angel," a Castiglia original, followed by a standout cover of Robert Nighthawk's classic "Murderin' Blues." This is the direction I'd love to see Albert explore further--I already know he is one of the very top electric guitar players out there, but his guitar touch and his fine sense of dynamics, along with his remarkable voice, have both improved so much since 2002 that I think he could do a GREAT acoustic cd. Maybe someday?

The rest of the disc includes a John Lee Hooker cover "Goin' Upstairs," with Quinn on the Hammond B3, and concludes with two more Castiglia originals, "Gettin By" and "Closing Time," which each turn the heat up again with some great electric guitar work. These two songs are not just coda to all that has gone on before--they illustrate how Albert Castiglia is clearly on top of his game. He closes things down with 12 minutes of great guitar work on these 2 songs, 12 minutes of music that CUT everything that Eric Clapton, for example, has done over the past 4-5 years. It reminds me of the way Stevie Ray Vaughan would just spin out these great melodies and riffs like it was easy for him. Albert is terrific and this is a great cd.