The Tommy Castro Band

Poor Tommy Castro was born 40 years too late. He really should have been going to elementary school with folks like John Lee Hooker and Wilson Pickett. That way he could have donated to the golden era of blues, when monsters like B.B. King and Buddy Guy were seemingly in every smoky, wrong-side-of-the-tracks juke joint in America. Since he missed that boat, Castro did the next best thing — he jams like Hooker and Pickett and moans like King and Guy. Castro's latest release, Painkiller, is notable on two counts. First, it's some seriously good blues music. Second, Castro captures what is very much a live medium and transfers that sound to CD with much more success than — gasp! — Mr. King or Mr. Hooker. With more than ten CDs under his belt, including 1999's Right as Rain, which readers of Blues Revue magazine voted one of the best 40 albums of all time, Castro knows his way around a studio. From his own "I'm Not Broke" to Albert Collins's "A Good Fool Is Hard to Find," Painkiller rocks with a style both easy and hard-hitting. Pristine guitar work by Castro and guest Coco Montoya plus brash sax sounds by Keith Crossan and authentic Wurlitzer work by Tony Stead make this album a standout. — Olivia Flores Alvarez

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Olivia Flores Alvarez