Albert Castiglia – Masterpiece | Album Review

Albert Castiglia – Masterpiece

Gulf Coast Records

11 songs – 46 minutes

Albert Castiglia serves up a celebration with this CD, discovering at the ripe age of 49 that he was not only a first-time father, but also a grandfather of two. Full of the fiery fretwork he’s known for, it’s also a deeply personal, introspective work that revels in his newfound joy, but also speaks volumes about the alienation and disconnect that many Americans feel today.

Castiglia has always possessed a deep social conscience that belies the brash, often tongue-in-cheek stage persona. A native New Yorker born to Cuban and Italian parents, he grew up in Miami, where he attended the university and dealt with the highs and lows of everyday life for four years as a social services investigator for the state of Florida.

At night, however, he quickly proved himself to be one of the top guitarists on the scene after joining Miami Blues Machine at age 19. Known for his visceral attack on the six-string, in 1996, he was in the audience at the Musicians Exchange, a long-running showroom in Fort Lauderdale, when Junior Wells invited him to join him on stage. He spent time backing Atlanta-based vocalist Sandra Hall for a while, but has been fronting his own bands since releasing his first solo album in 2002.

A five-time nominee in the Blues Music Awards, Albert finally took home honors for blues-rock album of the year this past May. Castiglia and Mike Zito handle all of the instrumentation here, sharing electric and acoustic guitar and bass duties with Zito adding keys and drums. It was recorded at Mike’s studio in Nederland, Tex., and released on his Gulf Coast label.

“Bring on the Rain” fires out of the gate fueled by a propulsive guitar hook amplified by second-guitar slide before Castiglia launches into lyrics that depict racing down the highway relentlessly while describing the mixed emotions racing through his brain. Zito opens “I Tried to Tell Ya” with a heavy Hill Country beat on the traps before Albert rips into a song steeped with political commentary about the Trump administration.

Things quiet down dramatically for the slow-paced ballad “Heavy,” which relies on imagery of being in a tunnel without a train and being soaked despite the absence of rain as Castiglia attempts to wash away his sins beside a levee. Then he offers up a little hope for the younger generation in “Keep on Swinging,” reminding them that they can accomplish anything if they choose to apply themselves.

The real gem on this CD, however, is the title tune, “Masterpiece,” an easy-breezy love song directed at his newly discovered family. Despite his success, he states, his greatest accomplishment came “before my prime in 1989” with the birth of his daughter, Rayne.

Castiglia’s mood changes quickly for the driving rocker “Thoughts and Prayers,” a description of the world in a spin and in which those wishes are accompanied by a loaded gun. It’s followed by a cover of Johnny Winter’s “Too Much Seconal,” a straight-ahead Chicago blues, that finds him reflecting on a long-lost friend while tearfully suggesting to another that she’d better change her ways or she simply won’t last. His mid-tune solo is one of the best he’s ever recorded.

The Southern rocker “Catch My Breath” offers up a rapid-fire pray for assistance bolstered by more over-the-top fret work before “Red Tide Blues” comes across with a swamp feel as it complains about algae build-up poisoning our shores. The bittersweet acoustic ballad “Love Will Win the War” describes senseless massacres at houses of worship in Charleston and Pittsburgh before a redo of Muddy Waters’ “I Wanna Go Home” offers up a simple desire to be with loved ones to bring the disc to a close.

This is Albert’s most focused release to date, loaded with powerful themes and plenty of the heavyweight fret work fans adore. There’s good reason it’s an award-winner. Pick this one up, you won’t be disappointed.

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