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Albert Castiglia

These Are the Days (Blues Leaf Records)

The Bonzo Dog Band, an eccentric Sixties British group with a penchant for silliness and satire, once released a song whose title begged the theoretical question, "Can blue men sing the whites?" That is, of course, a twist on the age-old argument about whether white musicians, who never experienced the prejudice and degradation that birthed the blues, could roll out those riffs with any degree of credibility. Modern masters like Eric Clapton, Stevie Ray Vaughn, and Duane Allman certainly suggest they can, but the debate is a worthy one regardless.

Another individual who affirms that ability is Miami's Albert Castiglia. Castiglia, who apprenticed under greats such as Junior Wells, Pinetop Perkins, Ronnie Earl, and Jerry Portnoy, has emerged as a singular presence on the local scene, a standout showman and exceptional guitarist in an environment where over-age cover bands remain the norm. His live performances are events in themselves, thanks to Castiglia's penchant for tossing off stirring solos while strolling off the stage and wandering out on the sidewalk, losing sight of his band but never the music at hand.

Fortunately Castiglia has no problem translating his talents to disc, and his third album, These Are the Days, is further proof. Like its predecessors, it provides a worthy platform for his searing vocals, which are authoritative beyond his relatively modest years, as well as his extraordinary performing prowess. Castiglia contributes five originals to the mix, including the ominous opener "Bad Year Blues" ("Been a real bad year/Only 12 more months to go...."). Meanwhile, longtime colleague Graham Wood Drout, of South Florida's other blues institution Iko-Iko, loans the title track, a backwoods ballad that allows Castiglia to stretch his melodic parameters. A take on Bob Dylan's otherwise obscure "Catfish" seems the least likely choice (the title refers to legendary baseball pitcher Jim "Catfish" Hunter), but a good stock of standards ("Night Time Is the Right Time," "Need Your Love So Bad," "He's Got the Whiskey," "Loan Me a Dime") maintains some consistency. No real revelations there, but his exceptional solos, sizzling slide guitar, and firebrand execution reflect the thrill of his live sets and make These Are the Days a memorable statement.

 
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