It would be easy, on first listen, to dismiss Albert Castiglia’s latest recording as yet another outing from yet another guitar slinger who has more notes to work with than ideas. And it’s true that much of “These Are The Days” treads familiar power-trio territory.
But while there are forgettable moments, with some of the tunes indeed coming off as ‘same-old-same-old,’ careful listening reveals a somewhat more discerning musical ethos at work here.
Castiglia, now in his late thirties, kicked around Florida’s club scene before hooking up with Junior Wells, with whom he toured for a couple of years. He’s got chops to spare, and his vocals are a cut above average, at least by the typical trio standard.
Yet while he often favors a snarling tone more suited to rock than blues, he avoids the over-the-top excess seemingly endemic to blues-rockers; there are lots of notes, to be sure, but Castiglia makes sure his blistering barrages are musically sound, rather than exercises in overindulgence.
Things kick off with the hard-driving “Bad Year Blues,” propelled by nasty slide guitar and pumping piano, the rhythm section of Steve Gaskell and Bob Amsel proving rock solid while Castiglia keeps things to the point. He proves he can handle funky rhythm on “He’s Got All The Whiskey,” his vocals showing a relaxed self-assurance while pianist Susan Lusher again provides powerfully propulsive accompaniment. Castiglia’s closing solo on this one veers into rock territory, his excitement almost getting the better of him, but the band holds it together. “Someone Loan Me A Dime,” by contrast, finds him taking his time and leaving lots of space for one of the disc’s highlights. “”Godfather Of The Blues” is a tribute to former boss Wells, and though guest harmonicist Ken “Stringbean” Sorenson isn’t in quite the same league it proves and enjoyable romp.
“Celebration” ventures into heartland rock, Sorenson returning to add some atmospheric acoustic harp to accent Castiglia’s restrained acoustic strumming. “Nightime Is The Right Time” [sic] percolates along nicely though falling somewhat short of a definitive take on the tune. Unfortunately, neither “Catfish” (an odd choice of covers and much too long) nor “Another Bloody Day” (simply unremarkable) work terribly well, but Castiglia redeems himself with “Need Your Love So Bad,” his stinging guitar work an object lesson in tasteful restraint, cushioned by a guest turn on organ from Rio Clemente.
“Twister” doesn’t quite have the drive the song calls for – the energy level here is underwhelming, but instrumental “Blues For Evan” that closes things out is another nice romp that finds Sorenson echoing Castiglia’s slashing slide to excellent effect.
All in all a satisfactory effort, “These Are The Days” isn’t quite polished enough to qualify as essential, but it does find Castiglia poised for bigger and better things. But give him a bit more time in the studio under the firm guidance of an experienced producer, and he may well be unstoppable!