Tommy Castro

Can't Keep a Good Man Down

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There's a clean San Francisco sheen to Tommy Castro's second album for Blind Pig, and it's not just the glossy production work of Jim Gaines (Santana, Huey Lewis and Stevie Ray Vaughan) that's responsible for it. Castro and his band have long been local favorites of the Bay area bar crowd, and his blues-rock/soul-pop synthesis with the occasional slow blues thrown in makes him another young contender for the yuppie throne of modern bluesdom. From the opening rock strut of "Can't Keep a Good Man Down" and "You Knew the Job Was Dangerous," Castro lays down lazy, in-the-pocket vocals (the only time he hits scream territory is on the closer, Albert King's "Can't You See What You're Doing to Me") pitted against in your face guitar blasts à la Stevie Ray Vaughan. These Texas-approved Stratocaster tones reach their apex on a five-minute-plus workout of Buddy Guy's "My Time After Awhile," where Castro literally wrenches every textbook tone and volume setting out of his instrument and makes this perhaps the most blues-approved moment of the set. A large quotient of varied originals abound, and the soulful strut of "I Want to Show You," "Take the Highway Down" and the funk jive of "High on the Hog" and "You Gotta Do What You Gotta Do" play off against the simplistic shuffle "You Only Go Around Once" and the low-down blues instrumental "Hycodan," an atmospheric duet between Castro's guitar and saxophonist Keith Crossan's late-night mood blowing. But the real blues moments are few and far between here -- this is blues-rock, no doubt about it, and the end result is music with crossover written all over it. If Huey Lewis & the News were to cut a blues album with a hotter guitar player in tow, it might end up sounding very much like this.

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