Jason Castro may not have been the perfect American Idol contestant -- he always seemed too mellow to make a serious bid for first place -- but he sure knew how to sell a song, with his cover of Leonard Cohen’s “Hallelujah” topping digital charts several days after its TV performance. Idol producers eventually yanked the song off the Internet, fearing that sales statistics would sway voters, but the facts had already spoken for themselves. Castro, despite his spaced-out goofiness, had chart potential.
Of course, all of that occurred two years before the release of Castro’s debut album. In the fickle world of American Idol, a world in which aspiring singers are the talk of Tinseltown one minute and forgotten faces the next, timing is everything. David Cook and David Archuleta released albums within months of the Idol finale, followed one year later by Michael Johns and Brooke White. Even Kristy Lee Cook, the season’s obligatory “how did she get here?” contestant, managed to parlay her 15 minutes of fame into a Top 40 country single. Jason Castro’s album is the very last of the bunch, an acoustic LP that finds its creator strumming the guitar, crooning about love, and co-writing most of his own material. The timing could be much better, but the songs aren’t bad at all, with most of the material taking its cues from Jason Mraz, Ben Harper, and other folk-pop heavyweights. The most memorable tunes here -- “Let’s Just Fall in Love Again,” possibly the best song recorded by an Idol veteran in years, and an extended version of “Hallelujah” -- weren’t written by Castro, but he performs both like they’re his own, singing with an understated sincerity that looked like apathy on TV but sounds great on record. As for the tracks that actually are his own…well, they’re passable at the very least, merrily memorable at the very best, and altogether fine indicators of the sound that Castro will likely pursue on future records. Let’s just hope those future records are longer, though; at 28 minutes, this feels more like an appetizer than a meal.