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The Devil You Know

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iTunes Review

San Francisco–based Tommy Castro is a blues-rock veteran who over the past 20 years has impressed audiences with his incredible guitar work. But it’s a packed field of ambitious players out there. To stand out from the crowd, Castro keeps a solid, brutal backing band in The Painkillers and invites noteworthy guests to help get the album over the finish line. Throughout the album, Castro is joined by the likes of The Holmes Brothers, Joe Bonamassa, Marcia Ball, Tab Benoit, Mark Karan, Samantha Fish, Tasha Taylor, and the J. Geils Band’s Magic Dick. Castro uses them judiciously. In James Pace, he's already got a keyboardist who keeps things moving thrillingly; the rhythm section of bassist Randy McDonald and drummer Byron Cage nails the pocket with little effort. A cover of Wet Willie’s “Keep On Smilin’” will resonate with folks who lived through the '70s, while the 2013 single “Greedy” ramps up the power chords and a soul vibe. “Two Steps Forward” vamps with nasty precision, with The Holmes Brothers adding vocals and Magic Dick tricking out on harmonica.

Customer Reviews


Castro’s exquisite guitar work drives the 13-song blues bonanza of passionate, insightful and energetic compositions. Released by Alligator Records, “The Devil You Know” possesses plenty of bite with an assortment of artists contributing to the feel and flavor of the sound. The title track sets the stage for what is to follow with a raw and gritty performance of first-rate musicianship. Guitar great Joe Bonamassa joins Castro and unleashes a Stevie Ray Vaughan vibe on the smoldering “I’m Tired.” The Cajun influence of Louisiana’s own Tab Benoit is showcased through Benoit’s searing guitar and soulful vocals on the rousing “When I Cross the Mississippi.” The Holmes Brothers and blues harpist Magic Dick (J. Geils Band) are featured on the blistering rocker “Two Steps Forward.” A strong female presence is well represented with the smooth R&B vocal stylings of Tasha Taylor on “The Whale Have Swallowed Me” and the vocal versatility of Samantha Fish on the spirited “Medicine Woman.” With “The Devil You Know,” Castro firmly secures his modern-day blues reputation in a convincingly powerful manner.

Love Tommy….but miss the old days….

Love Tommy but really miss his old band and music, especially the horns. He puts on a killer live show, but when it comes to listening to his music at home, in the car, on the bike…. I'll take the old guys hands down. If it ain't broke…don't fix it.

Tommy Castro-The Devil You Know

While this album was released last year, many might not have been exposed to this particularly blues infused hard edged CD. Without a single filler tune, the album simply drives in high gear from cut to cut, first to last. ’The Devil You Know’, the first tune and album title, gives a quick indication of just why Tommy Castro and the Painkillers have twice been a winner of the Blues Music Awards for B.B. King Entertainer of the Year.

We can all say we have favorite cuts from any release, and certainly, I am no different. ‘Center of Attention’ uses the Painkillers’ killer rhythm section to drive home the angry but empathetic lyrics of that drama queen we all have met at one time or another. ’Two Steps Forward’ adds some real spicy meter changes, while ’She Wanted To Give It To Me’ made me repeat the song over and over while I laughed at the lyrics overlaying a strong bass line. At this time, it is my favorite cut, but that can change with my many repeated listenings. You can make up your own mind as you listen but I guarantee you won’t regret picking this release to add to your collection.


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 were laid-back...
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The Devil You Know, Tommy Castro
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