Review: Albert Castiglia – Solid Ground

Posted on: Wednesday, May 7, 2014


Albert Castiglia – Solid Ground

(Ruf Records: RUF 1201)

Here’s a contender for one of the best blues guitar albums of the year so far . . . a Ruf Records debut for New York-born, Florida based bluesman Albert Castiglia. “Solid Ground” is a most enjoyable 14- track release that was recorded at Fat Rabbit Studio in New Jersey, and runs the gamut of all blues styles, with more than a soulful edge present

Aiding and abetting Castliglia’s superb guitar playing and great voice, are: Matt Schuler (bass, vocals), Bob Amsel (drums), Dave Gross (guitar, percussion, upright bass, vocals and mandolin), Jeremy Baum (Hammond B3, piano and Wurlitzer), Lou Bevere (guitar and vocals) and a guest spot on one track from Debbie Davies on guitar and vocals.

Proceedings get off to a lively start with the driving, funky riff of Castiglia’s own “Triflin'”; it is followed by the swinging blues of “Keep You Around Too Long”, with sterling contributions here from Jeremy Baum’s piano playing and absolutely dynamite soloing from Albert Castiglia himself. He piles on the funk for the great groove on “Searching The Desert For The Blues” and then takes the pace down on the soulful ballad “Have You No Shame”, that is capped with an absolutely soaring, melodic guitar solo, with his fine vocals to the fore as well.

An absolute highlight is the rip-roaring roadhouse shuffle of “Put Some Stank On It”, shared with Debbie Davies . . . it positively roars out of the blocks and doesn’t let up . . . driven along by the twin guitars and Baum’s keyboards, with the top rhythm section of Matt Schuler and Bob Amsel. Elsewhere, “Love One Another” has a joyous Stax meets Motown feel; and then Castiglia digs deep on the slow blues of “Sleepless Nights”, with more thrilling guitar leads, on the self-penned tune.

James B. Oden’s oft-covered blues chestnut, “Going Down Slow” gets an inventive, radical funk reworking here and again hits a groove that’s hard to ignore. The tempo shifts again on the acoustic slide-driven “Hard Time”, with Dave Gross’s mandolin featuring . . . with the sparse guitar giving it a stripped-down Delta blues mood. Castiglia and band take on a Rolling Stones classic in the shape of “Sway” off the “Sticky Fingers” album, and it is another gem here.

The penultimate Little Havana Blues (Arroz Con Mango) is a lengthy Latin/Santana-flavoured instrumental that is a showcase for the guitar playing of Castiglia and Gross and quite beautiful it is! This highly recommended release ends with him donning the acoustic guitar for the excellent “Just Like Jesus” . . . the vocal recalling the great Graham Parker . . . yes, really!

“Solid Ground” is well worth checking out – this must be the release that raises this fine musician’s profile, and as stated it comes highly recommended.


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