Tommy Castro And The Painkillers – Killin’ It Live
Alligator Records – 2019
10 tracks; 56 minutes
An integral part of the Legendary Rhythm & Blues Cruise and regular festival headliner, Tommy Castro is at the very top of the blues world. After reinventing his band a few years ago and dropping the horns that had been so much part of his signature sound, the new band has proved its worth on three studio albums. Tommy’s blend of blues, rock and soul always guarantees a good time and this album captures the quartet’s current live sound perfectly. Recorded at five different locations in California, Michigan, New York and Texas, The Painkillers deliver a retrospective of tunes from eight different albums. The band is Tommy on guitar and lead vocals, Randy McDonald on bass and backing vocals, Bowen Bowen on drums and Mike Emerson on keys. Eight of the songs here are originals plus two covers.
“Make It Back To Memphis” is a great starter with rocking piano before “Can’t Keep A Good Man Down”, title track of Tommy’s second album in 1997. Sleepy John Estes’ “Leaving Trunk” is given a funky treatment, very different to the recent Tedeschi Trucks version. Tommy gives us a “low down blues” called “Lose Lose”, a co-write with Joe Louis Walker from 2015’s Method To My Madness album; Tommy’s guitar here is great, well supported by Mike’s piano. After that a real roadhouse rocker is called for and “Calling San Francisco” fits the bill well, followed by a track that lives up to its title “Shakin’ The Hard Times Loose” as the band really rocks out. The CD is sensibly sequenced and after two rockers “Anytime Soon” gives us the chance to appreciate just how good a vocalist Tommy is on a melodic and delicate ballad.
Over a backdrop of organ licks Tommy leads the band into the funky “She Wanted To Give It To Me” which features plenty of his tough guitar work. “Two Hearts” is a typical TC song with a wonderfully catchy riff before the last tune, “Them Changes” (Buddy Miles’ tune famously covered by Hendrix on the Band Of Gypsys album) which offers short features for the hard-working rhythm section.
This long-awaited live album is simply a must-have for long-term fans and makes an ideal starting point for any late arrivals at the Tommy Castro party.