Music You Don't Know You Like Yet
In 2012 guitarist Tommy Castro found himself at a crossroads of sorts: He had an avid fan base and over a dozen successful discs but he yearned for a break from the soulful, horn-driven blues that had taken him so far. Instead of simply working in his long-established comfort zone he wanted a harder-edged guitar sound at the center of his tunes. To the surprise of his fans, instead of doing a one-off solo project away from his long-term band, he set his horn players free and formed a new band, The Painkillers, featuring a traditional blues line-up of guitar, bass, drum and keys. While this marked a step away from his past, the first disc released by the band, the terrific The Devil You Know, featured so many guests that it was hard to get a sense that too much had changed. It certainly had a harder edge but only a couple of the tunes truly featured nail hard blues rock adorned with just Castro’s solid, soulful vocals. This new disc leaves that modest start behind and features a more fully realized take on Castro’s goal of travelling in a different direction. That said, this isn’t just another blues guitar disc. While there is plenty of high energy riffing to heat things up, Castro bends the strings within the confines of tightly structured songs. There is none of the gratuitous soloing or endless jamming found on too many blues guitar discs. Instead, Castro gets in, does his thing, and gets out. Case in point: on "Lose Lose" he uses a lyrical guitar solo to drive home the downside of love action on the side. In lesser hands, the solo would have gone so long that you wouldn’t feel the pain of the lyrics. Love gone good and bad is a common theme here with "Got a Lot", "No Such Luck", "Two Hearts and I’m Qualified" plowing familiar territory. Elsewhere, "Common Ground" is a 60’s style plea for unity and "Shine a Light" is a plea for a clear path forward. The ballad "Died and Gone to Heaven" changes things up yet again with a big arena anthem sound that would have lighters held high at a Journey concert. While Castro’s voice has always had a soulful edge, the older he gets the more he echoes the likes of Delbert McClinton or even Peter Wolf (J. Geils) on the semi-spoken "Ride". Overall, this disc is a solid effort that will please long-term Castro fans and may even attract a few new ones who like their blues closer to Texas and Chicago than to Memphis or Kansas City. Smitty
review by Mark
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