Keeping On (Blues Leaf Records)
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Those familiar with Albert Castiglia's frenetic performances generally get the impression the guitarist operates only in a playful mode, whether he's segueing into a string of obscure oldies or wandering out to the curb while flailing away undeterred. However, his recorded offerings reflect a different side, one better suited for larger audiences and those for whom the blues is the ultimate musical mantra.
It's no surprise, then, that with his forthcoming fourth album, he's finding his footing as a raconteur of note, comfortably nestled in both traditional terrain and contemporary reinvention. His is a no-frills approach that has him fully inhabiting his songs, as if drawn to them by the spirits of the musicians who first fostered the blues in the backwash of the Mississippi Delta or in the smoky, late-night haunts of Chicago.
Castiglia's muscular treatments show him immediately taking command, from the fluid fretwork of "Cadillac Assembly Line" and the guttural growl of "Keep On Keepin' On" to the hasty shuffle of "Do You Love Me?" and the brash boogie of "Goin' Upstairs." Gritty and irascible — with authority and authenticity — he purveys a no-holds-barred delivery that melds his throaty vocals with a dazzling display of instrumental virtuosity. His technique effectively emulates the masters who mentored him: Junior Wells, Ronnie Earl, Eddie Clearwater, and Otis Clay among them.
Consequently, when he settles into some rural bottleneck blues, via his own "Sweet Southern Angel" and Robert Nighthawk's savage "Murderin' Blues," he shows he's adroit at mixing up the palette and opting for sobriety. Notably, Castiglia wrote five of the album's 12 tunes — other songs come courtesy of Bob Dylan, John Lee Hooker, T-Bone Walker, and British blues great Peter Green — but this is a seamless set, one that ought to elevate Castiglia to a more prominent position of influence and authority.