Artist: Albert Castiglia
Release date: May 24, 2019
The deal. Not that all blues rock is predictable, but the genre lends itself to patterns. Structurally a blues is three chords in a set order and given there are only 12 notes in the chromatic scale, your options are quite literally finite. But more than the underlying musical structures, there are the expectations of the audience. You can have the bluesiest flute player in the world in your band, but a flute solo probably isn’t going to go over too well (with apologies to Jethro Tull). Which is why I loved Albert Castiglia’s Masterpiece. It’s full of surprises, although not of the blues flute variety, with fun pivots away from the expected.
Castiglia is a singer/guitar player out of Florida and this is his 11th album. His vocal and guitar tones are remarkably similar. Both are tight with just a hint of grit. His voice has a lilt of wondrous disbelief, like he’s just slightly surprised by and skeptical of everything he’s singing. The guitar tone is much surer, like a soldier not just willing to follow any order, but excited at the prospect.
“I Tried to Tell Ya” borrows the ubiquitous Freddie King “Going Down” riff. But the solo is what you want to hear. It’s spacy and fast and jazzy and wild. It’s not metal and it’s not blues and it’s not even Hendrix. It just feels completely new, but not in a complicated way. It’s very easy to enjoy and understand and while the solo isn’t familiar, you’ll welcome it right away.
There’s some great variety on the album, too. “Thoughts and Prayers” features a groove a la Led Zeppelin’s “Dancing Days.” Here Castiglia’s vocals employ a muddy effect, giving the track an old-fashioned, country-ish sound. “Too Much Secanol” is a tottering slow blues Johnny Winter cover, with Castiglia sounding like a cross between Winter and Mike Bloomfield. There’s also perfect, old-school blues piano scampering beneath the song, courtesy of producer Mike Zito. And “Catch My Breath” is Lynyrd Skynyrd crossed with contemporary rock, as performed by Gregg Allman. It’s a strong set of music.
Straight talk. I’m embarrassed that I didn’t know Castiglia prior to this. He’s a unique talent. I understand this kind of rock and roll isn’t super popular, but I’m shocked he’s not more well-known (although I did notice he’s a guest on Zito’s Chuck Berry cover album). Castiglia’s music is different, but not dramatically so. I could imagine hearing just about any of his songs on the radio and being pleasantly surprised but not necessarily shocked by their presence. So I hope he keeps plugging away and growing his audience.
The confession. This was in my email for a while. But even worse, I got held up writing this review. So it’s been a postponement of a postponement. Which is disappointing because this is very cool album.
Closing arguments. Castiglia’s own promotional materials feature a quote calling him a mid-tier artist. There’s nothing being wrong with mid-tier, but it has connotations. Perhaps Castiglia sells or tours like a mid-tier artist, but he’s the real deal: versatile and exciting, with considerable vocal and guitar talents. Masterpiece shows the pleasures of solid songs performed by a very talented musician. This is a top tier album that deserves to be heard.
So much amazing music comes out all of the time. I review what I can as quickly as I can, working my physical and digital piles as efficiently as possible, but things fall between the cracks. Rather than giving up on things that are a little past their prime, contemporary-review-standards-wise, I’m going back for the overflow that deserves to be heard — even if it’s a little late.