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Albert Castiglia - Keepin On

Blues Leaf Records

12 tracks; 66:37 minutes; Suggested

Style: Electric Blues, Acoustic Blues, Blues-Rock

Parents, when you were “making” your children, was your goal to make each successive one better than the last one? Of course not; each child turned out to be different and unique. Now, imagine a recording artist with the same approach. Each release is made as good as it can be created, and each successive CD isn’t necessarily expected to be better than the last one. Each one turns out uniquely different.

I had always naively presumed that when an artist reached the point at which he/she could begin recording albums, the standard goal was to make the next one better than the last one. Albert Castiglia opened my eyes to a different paradigm in a recent interview on our Friends of the Blues Radio Show. “I don’t like to say one [recording] is better than another. All my CDs are like my kids, you know. They all have their own redeeming qualities in terms of material and stuff,” Castiglia explained. “Each recording has its own identity and strengths.”

Referring to his newest, fifth CD, “Keepin On,” (and third on the Blues Leaf label), Albert said, “I think it is the best ‘recording’ I’ve ever done. The engineer [Ben Elliot] and producers [Jack Kreisberg and Ben Elliot] got my guitar dialed in. It sounds really, really fat and full; I think it is my best sounding recording of all the ones I’ve made. Recording wise and production wise, ...[it’s] probably the best one; [and]...the musicianship on it is just incredible. I’m very proud of this record.” He should also be proud of his singing which has developed into his own distinct gritty-to-soulful sounds.

The “musicianship” to which Castiglia refers is the changed lineup used on this outing and for live touring -- from a four piece group to a trio (minus regular keyboards). Bob Amsel continues expertly on drums while new bassist A.J. Kelly joins Bob in a deft rhythm section. Studio guesting on both organ and piano is Bill “Mighty” Quinn, Emedin Rivera adds percussion, Nicole Hart returns with sweet background vocals, and Toby Walker plays some killer acoustic Dobro guitar on two cuts, the original “Sweet Southern Angel” and Robert Nighthawk’s “Murderin’ Blues.” This crew recorded five originals and covered radio-ready “Could Not Ask By More” by Peter Green with stable mate Sandy Mack adding harp. Other covers are by J.L. Hooker, Mack Rice, Bob Dylan, Jack Fikel, and T-Bone Walker.

This latest “kid” (CD) may be Albert’s wild-child as several songs showcase his ability to play extended-solo, brooding and broiling electric guitar. In a June live show for the Friends of the Blues, the instantly likeable Albert’s energy was so intense that I practically had to make him take a break (thirty-minutes-overdue) to sell folks some of those new CDs. The confidence he gained from the studio was on full display that wonderful, incendiary night.

Across the set, there is variety such as a Jazzy instrumental (“Mojo 305”), Swampy Blues-Rock (title track), the aforementioned acoustic songs with Toby Walker, and slow 12-bar Blues (“Closing Time”).

Purists may feel this CD is a touch too much on the Rock side of Blues Rock. But, no one can argue with the Country-Blues roots bared on the two acoustic numbers. Electric, Castiglia combines solid Blues with Soul, Rock, and Country-Blues tones for an “offspring” CD that should appeal to both Blues purists and Rockers.

Reviewer James "Skyy Dobro" Walker is a noted Blues writer, DJ, Master of Ceremonies, and longtime Blues Blast Magazine contributor. His weekly radio show "Friends of the Blues" can be heard Saturdays 8 pm - Midnight on WKCC 91.1 FM and at in Kankakee, IL.

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