Albert Castiglia – Solid Ground | Album Review

albertcastigliacd3Albert Castiglia – Solid Ground

14 songs – 66 minutes

Ruf Records

New York-born, Miami-based guitar slinger/vocalist Albert Castiglia shoots from the hip with this self-produced CD, the first release through a partnership with German blues powerhouse Ruf Records.

A college graduate who worked by day for the state of Florida as a social services investigator, Albert was already an extremely popular local musical talent when discovered by harmonica legend Junior Wells in the early ‘90s. Wells immediately hired him for his road band and moved him to Chicago. After Junior’s death in 1998, Castiglia continued on the road with Atlanta vocalist Sandra Hall for a few years before returning to the Sunshine State and establishing his solo career, quickly winning over audiences with his bold blues-rock guitar stylings. Since releasing the self-produced “Burn” CD in 2004, he’s issued six additional discs, each powerful than the one before.

For “Solid Ground,” Albert joins forces with multi-instrumentalist and recording wizard Dave Gross at Fat Rabbit Studios in New Jersey for his best release to date, displaying a range of material certain to appeal to a broad spectrum of music lovers. In addition to turning the knobs, Gross contributes percussion, upright bass and mandolin and backing vocals along with Castiglia’s regular backing unit of Matt Schuler (electric bass and vocals), Bob Amsel (drums) and Jeremy Baum (keyboards). Two other guitar talents – Debbie Davies and Lou Bevere – also are in attendance for one cut each.

It doesn’t take long before Castiglia proves he isn’t “Trifflin’,” the first cut, an original rocker in which he prays for patience in dealing with everyday problems. A simple single-note hook drives the song steadily along atop a thumping rhythm pattern, giving him plenty of space to work the fret board later in the arrangement. The self-penned “Keep You Around Too Long” kicks off with a guitar run over a loping rhythm pattern straight out of the South Side of Chicago as Albert launches into a promise to cut ties with a woman whose “evil will make evil weep.”

Castiglia dips into the song bag of South Florida urban swamp legend Graham Wood Drout for the funky, image-filled “Searching The Desert For The Blues” before launching into “Have You No Shame,” penned by Atlanta songsmith Tommy Carlisle. It’s a slow burner in which the singer recounts spotting the woman he loves in another man’s arms, and gives Albert a chance to display his vocal talents, which bookend a smoldering guitar solo.

The mood brightens and pace quickens for “Put Some Stank On It” as Davies joins Castiglia on guitar and backing vocals. Another Albert original, it’s not a song about sex. Instead, it’s an affirmation to apply yourself when things are going against you and you’re full of self-doubt, and it’s a real winner. The next tune, an upbeat Memphis style soul number, delivers another positive message: With images of hate and unrest around the globe filling the TV news and giving folks the blues, the best way to fight it is to “Love One Another.”

The original blues rocker “Sleepless Nights” follows, dealing with relationship problems. “We started equal,” Castiglia sings, “but it didn’t turn out that way/I got the good times and the glory/You got the blues and cloudy days./Life’s getting harder/If you leave, you’ve got the right./I’ll let the tears fall down and drown myself in sleepless nights,” ending with a powerful guitar solo. Next up, “Going Down Slow” has been done to death since St. Louis Jimmy Oden first recorded it for the Bluebird label in 1941. But Castiglia breathes new life into it with a funk arrangement and solid instrumental hook. He follows it with Drout’s rootsy “Celebration” before another original “Hard Time,” co-written with Joel DaSilva, front man of Midnight Howl, another rising talent from South Florida. It’s a simple tune that brims with blues imagery.

“Bad Avenue” follows. Written by Walter Williams, aka Lefty Dizz, an under-recorded superstar of the Chicago blues scene who left us in the mid-‘90s, and a hit in Europe when released on the Isabel label, it’s an in-your-face request to visit the aforementioned street, where the “men all tote shotguns and the women carry pistols, too.” The disc concludes with a cover of the Rolling Stones’ “Sway,” the original instrumental “Little Havana Blues (Arroz Con Mango)” and a third tune from Drout, “Just Like Jesus.”

This CD is a pleaser, and far and away Castiglia’s best release to date, richly textured and solidly delivered with the potential to appear on “best of” lists at year’s end. Pick it up. You won’t be sorry!

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