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CASTRO BAND Boom Boom Club, Sutton
17 May 2010
by Phil Honley
finally give out the best gig in the sky award, San Francisco's Tommy
Castro and his marvellous band will surely be at the very top of the
short notice Boom Boom Club appearance was as much a celebration of all
that is good in rhythm blues as it was the promotion of his current
award winning Album of the Year 'Hard Believer'.
Castro Band was simply everything you would ever wish for from an
American tour band. Much like Delbert McClinton at his best but with a
sharper band, Tommy Castro reset the bar for contemporary rock-blues and
Castro and Otis Grand. Photo by Phil Honley
told, musical labels aren't that relevant to a band that thinks nothing
of shifting its considerable musical emphasis from Blues to Rock, via
Soul, Boogie and Funk and ultimately back to the blues again
Essentially presenting his music as a contemporary variant on the
trusted review format, the evening took on an unexpected extra turn when
Otis Grand took to the stage to share some big toned solos with Tommy.
It was a
pivotal moment if only because what had gone before had been of such
quality that it took every ounce of Otis's professional to leap into the
fray and come up with something as good. In the event he and Tommy
launched themselves into Albert King's Memphis drenched 'Everyone Want
To Go To Heaven'. The guitars duelled, the saxes wailed and Tommy added
a mid-number rap before the number exploded.
Crossan (sax) and Tommy Castro. Photo by Phil Honley
But back to
the man of the moment, the 2010 quadruple Blues award winning guitarist
cuts a modest dapper figure who quietly revels in his role as band
leader. In fact Tommy almost cuts an unremarkable figure until he starts
to unveil his spine tingling vocals and fires off some of his smoking
were plenty of both on offer in two sets that ranged from the muscular
grooves of Dylan's 'Gotta Serve Somebody' via the subtle brilliance of
'The Trouble with Soul' - a beautiful groove this - to the Memphis feel
of 'Hard Believer', the whip cracking funk of 'Nasty Habits' and the
self penned, show stopper 'Wake Up Call'.
peaked on this number as the horn section of Keith Crossan on sax and
trumpeter Tom Poole launched themselves into another stratosphere while
Tommy played some angular lines and pianist Tony Head pounded his keys.
were further highlights, most notably the soulful blues of the
Castro/Rick Estrin co-write 'Back Up Plan', on which Tommy extended his
full vocal range, as well as the Texas feel of Stephen Burton's 'It Is
What It is' and Tommy's own 'Can't Keep A Good Man Down'. The latter was
another song of measured brilliance and showcased some more of Tommy's
fierce guitar work.
duly rocked out on 'Make it Back to Memphis' on which the horns and keys
punched their weight. Perhaps the most impressive thing about the two
and a quarter hour show was the fact that the show effortlessly shifted
gears to pursue several exhilarating, wide ranging but musically related
There was an
outrageous boogie version of 'Serves Me Right To Suffer' on which Tommy
broke down the band to deliver dazzling licks in duet format with
drummer Ronnie Smith. And finally as if to confirm the notion of a
review, a memorable evening finished with the equally pulsating James
Brown's 'Sex Machine', complete with a Latino section as unlikely as it
leads a pressure cooker of a band, full of musical tensions, so much
soul, wicked solo's real feel and enough intensity to match any rock
band in the world.
the oldest of clichés, the band blew the roof of the pace as the crowd
whooped and hollered. No, this wasn't the Deep South; it was Sutton,
Surrey, but for a glorious few minutes the crowd had collectively been
transported to another time and another place.
by Pete Feenstra
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