Albert Castiglia got a warm welcome in these pages for his last two rip-roaring and stompy bluesrock efforts on the Blues Leaf label (here and here). Those were his fifth and sixth albums. For this one, his seventh, he made the switch to Ruf Records and therein underwent an interesting transition, cleaving to a much rootsier modality, the kind of blend of old and new that label owner Thomas Ruf tends to favor and does so damn well with. I mean take a look at some of the past and present Ruf roster: Canned Heat, Omar & the Howlers, Ana Popovic, Kevin Coyne (!), Spooky Tooth (!!), Walter Trout, Eric Bibb, and a whole lot more. Albert's in damn good company.
And Dave Gross, who plays all kinds of instruments in Solid Ground, engineered the gig in such fashion that it echoes Mayall's old 60s dates at Klook's Kleek or Alvin Lee and Ten Years After's earliest stuff, those outrageously hip pre-stacked-Mashalls days when you had to have a lotta heart just to get in the door. There's tons of that here, starting with the opening Triflin' and drummer Bob Amsel's clever work sounding like a giant foot stompin' out the beat as Castiglia sets up a staccato repeating riff below that righteous blues bark he possesses. This is definitely a model of the past era's tone and tumult torn from the very beginning of what would later psychedelicize and even turn to metal (er, you know Black Sabbath started as a heavy blues ensemble, right?). As such, you might also want to think of T.S. McPhee's intermittent return to roots as well, inside and outside the Groundhogs.
Have You No Shame, though, is a surprising blend of soul and Texas roadhouse country that makes you wanna corner the guy after the set and buy him a beer 'cause you been down that heartbreak road and know every twist and turn. It ain't that Al threw his own raucous past out the door, not at all, but that he was given plenty of room to explore, and so ya even get yez some gospel and latinate shake as well as a cover of the Stones' Sway, this time boasting a rawer and lazier drawl than even Mick put on it, revealing the folk underside of the celebrated song. More, Castiglia's dynamic and convicted vocals are actually the dominant factor, again thanks to engineer Dave, and I suspect this CD is the one that will land him a hit or two on charts beyond the blues venues. If his handling of that McCormick / Carlisle Shame doesn't make it a standard, I don't know what the hell will.
Edited by: David N. Pyles
Copyright 2014, Peterborough Folk Music Society.
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