Tommy Castro is back & better than ever. Teaming up again with Blind Pig Records, the label which brought him to international prominence after the stunning success of his 1996 debut Exception to the Rule, as well as the string of spectacular releases that followed, Castro delivers his first album of original music in four years.
The title of this album tells you most of what you need to know about San Francisco blues rocker Tommy Castro. His first disc of original material in four years finds him back with the Blind Pig label and expanding his crackling R&B-drenched blues into a more rock-oriented sound. On Soul Shaker
, Castro downplays the sizzling guitar that dominated his previous releases and focuses instead on songs and arrangements. The horns that pepper--and often power--tracks such as the frisky "What You Gonna Do Now?" push the soul element even further to the forefront. But it's Castro's gutsy, gritty vocals--something like a mix of Delbert McClinton
and John Mellencamp
--and his energetic approach that ignite these tunes.
Castro borrows Little Feat's New Orleans stomp for the swampy, slide-driven title track, shifts into Bob Seger territory on the thumping rocker "The Holdin' On," and even delivers a flute-powered song, "The Crossanova"--a lively instrumental cowritten by reed player Keith Crossan that wouldn't be out of place on an old Herbie Mann disc. "Take Me Off the Road" burns with ZZ Top hip-shakin' boogie. This may not be what established Castro fans expected, but by widening his scope and beefing up his sound the soul shaker has delivered his most satisfying and eclectic set in a decade-long career. --Hal Horowitz