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, adn 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 about Painkiller. With the Tommy Castro Band 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 the fun.
career has been marked by one triumph after another. Considering
his innate charisma and his skills as a supremely talented
guitarist, gifted vocalist, and engaging songwriter, it
is easy to see why Castro has enjoyed so much success
so quickly. In a remarkably short time, he went 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.
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
went on to play with many Bay Area bands. "When I
was a kid, music was something I did for fun. Later, it
became obvious to me that playing music was the thing
I was meant to do, so I made a decision to pursue it as
a career." For two years he toured the U.S. extensively
with Warner Brothers recording artists The Dynatones.
Hiatt, B.B. King, Buddy Guy and Tommy Castro from the
B.B. King Blues Music Festival
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 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. They won that distinguished
award, regarded as an indicator of their success, again
in 1994. Previous recipients of the award include Chris
Isaak and Huey Lewis and the News.
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
with Delbert McClinton
recording "Don't Turn Your
Heater Down" for the
As Rain CD
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 cliches
of the genre. Castro is the awesome exception to the blues
rule... the next blues rock hero."
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." Even mainstream music magazines
were lavish in their praise, with Musician magazine
exclaiming, "Castro could be a star," while Guitar magazine noted, "It's straightforward,
grooving blues that'll get your feet moving."
records with Dr. John for the Right
As Rain CD.
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
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."
The CD soon received continuous airplay and regular fan
requests on well over 400 radio stations nationwide. Castro
was featured on the cover of Blues Revue with
a highly laudatory feature article. 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 with the
potential to appeal to an audience outside of the blues
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."
Billy Lee Lewis, Keith
Crossan, and Randy
McDonald at the taping of Comedy
next recording-produced by the talented Jim Gaines-was
1999's Right As Rain. The CD showcased Castro's
electrifying blue-collar rock 'n' soul 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
has wowed and won fans on every stage he's performed on,
with is riveting presence growing stronger by the year.
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 (on DVD
and VHS) 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."
additions to his discography include the 2001 album Guilty
of Love from the fledgling 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.
looks on in admiration as John Lee Hooker adds his
vocal stylings to Tommy's Guilty
Of Love CD.
observers of the blues have extolled Tommy's dynamic musicianship
and pointed to him as being among a small few that represent
the future of the blues. B.B. King was so enamored of
the Tommy Castro Band that he invited them to be openers
on his 2001 concert tour, and again in 2002. When teenaged
Castro bought his very first blues album (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 all, the band played over eighty concert dates with
"the King of the blues."
Carlos Santana, who's also invited Castro to share the
stage with him, said of Tommy, "The blues is in good
hands. This is the person who has the voice, the sound,
and the right intentions to touch everybody's heart."
to give his ever-growing fan base another album of new
"Tommy Castro Band music," Castro and company
set out to create Soul Shaker by focusing first
and foremost on the songs. Said Tommy, who for the first
time had a hand in writing all the songs on the album,
"I've been working on songs for this record for a
couple of years, writing with some of the best songwriters
in the business, members of the band and on my own. Producer
Kevin Bowe and I, with the help of all the musicians involved,
let the songs dictate the approach. The result is that,
which for the most part the material was done in a familiar
way, we were also led into some new territory. So, our
long-time fans will hear more of what they know and love
about us, and there'll also be some pleasant surprises."
Soul Shaker, with a spark and vitality as fresh
as day one, without conforming and without compromise,
Tommy and the band continue to explore the boundaries
of American roots music. And their mesmerizing blend of
rock, blues and Memphis soul provides all the soul shakin'
Tommy Castro and his brilliant band have captured a hold of legions of fans and critics alike around the world with their mesmerizing blend of rock, blues adn Memphis soul. On Painkiller, style and soul, they continue to explore the boundaries of American roots music.