As its title suggests, Tommy Castro's seventh album is a note of thanks to the artists who inspired the West Coast guitarist/vocalist. While rocking R&B and blues greats like B.B. and Albert King, Chuck Berry and Buddy Guy are obvious choices, Castro digs deep into their catalogs. He covers B.B. King's "Bad Case of Love," Albert King's "Everybody Want to Go to Heaven," Berry's "Tulane," and Guy's version of Willie Dixon's "When My Left Eye Jumps." More interesting, though, are Castro's '60s soul roots which he acknowledges in versions of songs made popular by Wilson Pickett (a powerful "I Found a Love"), Sam & Dave (Curtis Salgado joins in on a duet of "I Take What I Want"), Otis Redding (a thumping "Lovey Dovey" with Sista Monica Parker taking the Carla Thomas part) and James Brown (a swinging "I Feel That Old Feeling Coming On," which is a departure from Brown's usual funky work).
The beloved Brazilian guitar legend's resumé is so chock-full of varied musical experiences – jazz, pop, film scoring, ten years with Sergio Mendes – that his brilliant solo efforts can't help but include informal homages to different eras of his life. He starts out here getting straight to the heart of the matter, paying tribute to his fellow countryman Antonio Carlos Jobim with a self-contained plucky guitar/vocal duet of "Waters of March," which includes spirited scat passages. He moves into samba mode for a lively medley of Dizzy Gillespie and Charlie Parker tunes, "Groovin' High/Whispering," deferring to Toots Thielemans' always engaging harmonica for melody as he harmonizes gently; then they switch roles.
Tommy Castro's sixth release for the Blind Pig label, Painkiller, picks up where his 2003 set, Soul Shaker, left off. This time around, producer John Porter – who has worked with Santana, Taj Mahal, B.B. King, and Buddy Guy – positions Castro's Delbert McClinton/Southside Johnny vocal grit in front of a punchy horn section and rounds out the date with a few guest artists. Unlike many similar modern blues projects of good intentions but lackluster performances, the combinations on Painkiller never sound forced. In particular, the Albert Collins track, "A Good Fool Is Hard to Find," has Coco Montoya and Castro trading vocal jabs and guitar riffs, and Angela Strehli's passionate vocal on Freddie King's "If You Believe (In What You Do)" is likewise another highlight of this overall triumphant rock 'n' soul album.