Tommy Castro and The Painkillers
Tommy Castro is a guitarist and vocalist from San Jose, California. Castro became a member of The Dynatones in 1980 but by 1991 had left to form his own band. Castro released “Soul Shaker” on Blind Pig Records in 2005 and received his first two Blues Music Award nominations the following year. His follow-up recording “Painkiller” also on Blind Pig resulted in him winning BMA awards for both “Contemporary Blues Album of The Year” and the coveted “B.B. King Entertainer of The Year”.
In an unprecedented move Castro decided to switch record labels and sign with Alligator Records. In 2009 Castro released his Alligator Records debut “Hard Believer”. As a direct result Castro received four additional BMA nominations winning them all; Contemporary Blues Album of The Year, Contemporary Blues Male Artist of The Year, Band of The Year, and for the second time B.B. King Entertainer of The Year. Overall Castro has twelve BMA nominations having won six times.
Castro formed The Painkillers in 2012. He has since released 2014’s “The Devil You Know” and 2015’s “Method to My Madness”. The current lineup includes Castro, guitar and vocals; Randy McDonald, bass and background vocals; Bowen Brown, drums and percussion; and Michael Emerson, keyboards. Background vocalists include Lisa Leuschner Andersen and recording engineer Bobby Yamilov. The album is co-produced by Castro and Kid Andersen at Andersen’s Greaseland Studio in San Jose.
There are seven new originals. Opening with “Nonchalant”, written with Jim Pugh, Castro takes a dynamic guitar solo. Emerson’s piano and the horn section of Nancy Wright, sax; and Jim Halbleib, trumpet, complete the production.
“Blues All Around Me” from Castro and Johnny Ace is a wonderful vocal. “Love is 4:40” was written with Ron Alan Cohen; Martin Winstad was added on percussion.
Four more songs were written by Castro including my favorite, the soulful “My Old Neighborhood”, with Emerson on both organ and piano, and with a beautiful sax solo from Wright.
“Fear is The Enemy” contains the lyric “they don’t look like you, they don’t talk like you, they don’t believe like you do, fear is weak, love is strong, a little love can right a lot of wrong”. “Enough is Enough” rocks from start to finish and includes a fabulous slide guitar solo from Castro.
There are also five well selected covers. On Elvin Bishop’s “Rock Bottom” guitarist Mike Zito sits in. “Soul Shake” is a duet popularized by Delaney and Bonnie in 1970 and Castro shares the vocal with Danielle Nicole. “Them Changes” is the Buddy Miles classic with guitarist David Hidalgo from Los Lobos. “Sticks and Stones” is from Tina Turner. “Further On Down The Road” was written and recorded by Taj Mahal on his 2008 album “Maestro”. These are wonderful versions from Castro who continues to connect the past with the present.
The closer “Live Every Day” is another original. Charlie Musselwhite guests on harmonica and also shares the vocal with Castro.
Castro establishes a rapport with his audience that is rarely equaled. He is one of the most exciting performers on the scene today.
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