Miami-raised guitarist Albert Castiglia came to prominence while backing the legend that is Junior Wells. After subsequently working with singer Sandra Hall he embarked on a solo career that’s seen him released nine blues albums, all of which hit the high-quality mark and a few of them are reviewed here on Bluesdoodles…just use the search facility. He now has a live album out called Wild And Free, a title that sums up the attitudes and uninhibited performances therein. Add in some guest appearances from the likes of Mike Zito and you can guarantee a full-on concert with plenty of guitar dexterity on offer…my only quibble is that the fades cause a disconnect with the audience; I have always loved listening to the little ditties guitarists use to tune up between songs, the inter-band banter, and the important rapport with the audience…otherwise, we would never have heard the immortal line; “Can we have everything louder than everything else!” That aside, stand by for class guitar playing with carefully placed notes and definitely no widdling or needless noodling!
Opening at full throttle, the band kicks off with Let The Big Dog Eat and straightaway we are treated to Albert’s sinuous playing that, in this instance, sounds a bit like Jeff Healey mixed with Hendrix that transfers nicely into an inventive solo with a lovely chord solo mixed in. A powerful start that is followed by the equally heavy blues-rock of Hoodoo On Me: I’ve always loved the descending riff and done live, it is another example of his power and sensitivity with deft accompaniment while he’s singing and then a solo that traverses the fretboard with enviable ease.
I Been Up All Night stays with power blues chords and riffs and added wah pedal use that shows how it should be done…he adds tone, depth, and colour with care rather than just stomping the damn thing and just listen to the bass behind it all. The band slows things down a little with the sublime ballad that is Heavy; Albert shows his emotional playing is as good as his power-driven stuff as the song builds via some almost Ash like chord play before we get a solo of real quality…listen to the way he melds blues, jazz, and rock into a perfect whole. It lasts for over nine minutes but, as quality songs always do, it is over in a flash. Back into faster territory with the wonderfully titled Get Your Ass In The Van…and I’m pretty sure he isn’t singing to a donkey herder!
The slide is majestic as he combines the classic tropes of Dust My Broom with a bit of Pride and Joy mixed in for good measure and it works admirably and the piano solo is a nice diversion if a little low in the mix; the slide solo is shiver-inducing as he explores the whole neck…and then wrings it. Searching The Desert For The Blues is introduced with some Simon Kirke style drums that set the tone as the band join in for a slow-ish slice of semi funky blues and yet another solo of feel and depth and a nice nod to Robert Johnson with the “passway full of stones” reference. Keep On Swinging is a bit Zep riff and a bit Gary Moore style with the better man winning out (Moore) as the mid-paced, heavy blues-rock takes hold and doesn’t let go….and as he says; “don’t let them bastards get you down”. Too Much Seconal (not, as iTunes lists it ‘Too Much Seasonal’!) is a lesson in the danger of prescription drugs and also, courtesy of Johnny Winter who wrote it, a lesson in taking traditional blues structures and building them into something different. Albert does a cracking interpretation of a cracking song and while paying deference to Winter still imbues it with a dash of quality Castiglia and he’s joined by Mike Zito for extended soloing/duetting….great stuff. Lovin’ Cup is next and channels the Chuck Berry in Albert but then the solo explodes into freeform and high-quality blues soloing that is simply brilliant…once again, I tried to emulate the way he combines bends and runs on my Musicman and, once again, failed miserably. The middle section also gives a very good organ solo from John Ginty with the bass backing it perfectly and imaginatively. I Tried To Tell Ya brings some wah back into this excellent slice of blues-rock riffs and solos. The second solo, however, is the one to listen for…breath-taking as Albert shows why a guitar has six strings and twenty-one frets that can be used in one piece. The album closes with Boogie Funk which does exactly what it says…more boogie than you can shake a stick at with some funky undertones to keep it fresh and hopping. An instrumental may seem a strange way to close out the concert but it works on the album and it works for me and is the track I keep going back to the most. So, here is a powerful statement showing Albert’s prowess at its best a faultless live performance that is blues and rock all the way. The backing is first class too with the core band laying down the blocks for Albert and his guests to build on. This is an album for anyone that likes blues-rock played with fire, desire, and understanding and is a regular on my playlists…give it a listen.
Bluesdoodles rating: Wonderful addition for blues-rock lovers and guitar freaks.
- Big Dog
- Hoodoo On Me
- I Been Up All Night
- Get Your Ass In The Van
- Searching The Desert For The Blues
- Keep On Swinging
- Too Much Seconal
- Loving Cup
- I Tried To Tell Ya
- Boogie Funk
Albert Castiglia: guitar, vocals
Justine Tompkins: bass
Ephraim Lowell: drums
Lewis Stephens: Hammond B3, piano
John Ginty: Hammond B3
Mike Zito: guitar
Recorded live at The Funky Biscuit in Boca Raton, Florida.
(The iTunes run on track this time provided the other blues Albert…Mr Collins and one of his many wonderful songs…it just happened to be Travellin’ South that warmed my cockles!)