It sounds like Wilson Pickett hopped down Delbert McClinton's throat and is clawing his way out. Left Coast singer/guitarist Tommy Castro masquerades as a bluesman, but that's pure, funky, old-school soul he's pumping out. Castro even had the balls (and the chops) to cover Pickett's '66 classic soul scorcher “99 ½” on 2009's Hard Believer, matching the Wicked Pickett's panther screeches yowl for yowl.
There's no Pickett covers on Castro's latest, but his spirit is alive and howlin'. Castro wrote or co-wrote half the material, recorded at Kid Andersen's Greaseland Studios in San Jose.
“Nonchalant” is anything but: horn-blasted soul that sounds like a '60s Muscle Shoals session, Castro laying stinging guitar lines around his Picketted throat-searing vocal.
Castro's vocal is more Delberty on “Fear Is the Enemy of Love,” but the vibe is “Gimme Shelter”-era Stones, Andersen's wife Lisa providing the Merry Clayton-inspired anguished soulful wails behind him.
Castro serves up some Mahal on “Further On Down The Road," wavering vocally between Taj and Delbert in a laidback lope surrounded by some really pretty Duane-ish guitar lines.
Taking on Delaney and Bonnie's 1970 ripper “Soul Shake” is a fool's errand for most musicians, most of whom desperately try to cover Bonnie's I'm-being-boiled-alive shreiks and fail to live up to the sidemen on this one, with Duane on slide and King Curtis blowin sax. But Castro and his bunch are up for it, rocking it hard and true to the original with help from Danielle Nicole and Lisa Andersen once again for the Bonnie Bramlett scald-a-thon.
Castro puts his big boy stompers on for Buddy Miles' “Them Changes,” with a little help from Los Lobos' David Hidalgo trading wiggly licks with Castro on guitar and blast-furnace call-and-response vocals worthy of Sam and Dave.
Call it blues if you must, or file it under rock, but you can't ignore the soul. But in the long run, it doesn't really matter what you label Castro's effort – it's what it does to you that counts.