Tommy Castro

Soul Shaker

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San Francisco's Tommy Castro doesn't play blues so much as a brand of hard, soulful rock with a blues inflection, not unlike the J. Geils Band in the early 1980s, say, or Bob Seger (Castro's voice bears a strong resemblance to Seger's), all with a little bit of the old Stax groove tossed in for good measure. Soul Shaker reunites him with his old label, Blind Pig, and while there is nothing startling or innovative here, Castro and his band churn out a kind of meat-and-potatoes rock that is increasingly becoming an endangered species, probably not seen in these parts since Seger decided to stop making albums. While Castro is perfectly capable taking a Stevie Ray Vaughan guitar turn on the Strat, it is his vocals that give his material its real punch, and here he turns in some very credible singing performances on the Memphis-style ballad "Anytime Soon," "The Holdin' On" (which Wilson Pickett should cover immediately), the funky "Big Love," and the title track, "Soul Shaker," which features a guest spot by slide guitar ace Roy Rogers. One of the most striking tracks is "Let's Give Love a Try," which rocks wonderfully in a no-frills, bar band groove, and it really does sound like a great, lost Bob Seger single. Another highlight is the flute-led and jazzy "The Crossanova," which shows that Castro and his band have more than a couple cards up their sleeves. In the end, Soul Shaker is a solid party album, one that breaks no new ground, but sometimes that's just fine.

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