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Tommy Castro Presents the Legendary Rhythm & Blues Revue--Live!

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Album Review

A direct descendant from the traveling bundled artist packages of the '60s right down to its retro "hatch show"-styled cover art, Tommy Castro and his band play host to a relatively diverse assortment of high-energy blues and soul acts. The concept originated on the yearly Legendary Rhythm & Blues Cruise where such musical collaborations are typical. Castro's concept was to take that concept on the road, resulting in this dozen-track live album cherrypicked from various tour stops. It's a rollicking, very plugged-in affair, perhaps not surprisingly geared toward some of Castro's current crop of Alligator labelmates such as Janiva Magness, guitarist Michael Burks, and ex-Little Charlie & the Nightcats frontman-gone-solo Rick Estrin. Still, a handful of non-Alligator names like Debbie Davies, Joe Louis Walker, and "Sista" Monica Parker also appear. The varied collective features youngsters Trampled Underfoot as well as lesser-known veteran Theodis Ealey, both of whom handily hold their own next to the more popular participants. Castro takes lead vocals on four tracks, and he, along with his horn-enhanced band, provide backup for the majority of the other artists. Everyone is at the top of their game with an electricity and vein-popping excitement that can only be generated when musicians feed off each other live. Castro in particular seems to relish his master of ceremonies role, charging through a soulful version of Bob Dylan's "Gotta Serve Somebody" and a sizzling "Serves Me Right to Suffer." The latter suddenly shifts tempos from a cracking slow blues to a driving "Radar Love" boogie beat and displays his sometimes underappreciated guitar skills. Most impressive, and rather unexpected, is the number of females in the lineup, a refreshing change from the typically male-dominated blues field. Not only do guitarist Davies and vocalist Magness turn in some thrilling performances (Magness on a tough, horn-punched, swampily rearranged version of James Brown's "Think"), but Monica Parker's slow blues boils, and Trampled Underfoot's bass-playing lead singer Danielle Schnebelen's sexy/angry vocals will have you checking the liner notes to see who this newcomer is. Estrin adds both humor and harp to the generally guitar-oriented lineup with "My Next Ex-Wife," and Michael Burks' ten-minute grinding blues "Voodoo Spell" will make an instant believer of anyone who might not be familiar with his slashing guitar attack. The disc moves from one highlight to the next with the primary detriment being that it's not a double CD to provide more of what's here. Perhaps volume two is in order.

Biography

Born: 1955 in San Jose, CA

Genre: Blues

Years Active: '90s, '00s, '10s

According to all the press and hype and hoopla for a time during the 1990s, Tommy Castro was pegged as the next big star of the blues. Long a favorite among Bay Area music fans, Castro — in the space of two album releases — took his music around the world and back again with a sheaf of praise from critics and old-time blues musicians alike. His music was a combination of soul-inflected rockers with the occasional slow blues or shuffle thrown into the mix to keep it honest. His vocals...
Full bio
Tommy Castro Presents the Legendary Rhythm & Blues Revue--Live!, Tommy Castro
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