Latter-Day Bluesman Tommy Castro Introduces Us to The Devil You Know

TommyCastro.jpg
Photo by Lewis MacDonald/Courtesy of Alligator Records
Tommy Castro lets 'er rip live onstage.
If you had to find a CD by Tommy Castro, chances are you'd find one (or all) of them in the "Blues" section. But with his most recent release, The Devil You Know (Alligator Records), the 59-year-old California native who has been making records for 20 years consciously wanted to do something different.

"It's still blues-based, but I wanted a leaner sound, more guitar-driven and rocking. Something along the lines of the acts I listened to growing up like the Rolling Stones, Eric Clapton and Traffic," he says.

"I wanted to get the feeling I had like when I was a kid and playing guitar with my friends," he adds. "And I wanted it to sound contemporary."


More »

Don't Know Who Michael Bloomfield Was? You Totally Should.

MikeBloomfield.jpg
Bob Calo/Columbia Records
Michael Bloomfield, Nov. 1968, at the studio of Norman Rockwell. The famous painter did the cover of a record that Bloomfield released with Al Kooper.
"He was the greatest guitar player I ever heard" -- Bob Dylan
"[He] is music on two legs" -- Eric Clapton
"You could put [him] with James Brown, and he'd be a motherfucker." -- Miles Davis

Wow. What other unknown axe-slinger could garner such praise from such music heavyweights? But this is only a sampling of comments of admiration and wonder for the guy once ranked No. 42 on Rolling Stone's list of Top 100 guitarists. It's the pride of Chicago, the guy who Muddy Waters considered a son, the Jew of the Blues...Michael Bloomfield!

Who?


More »

The Big Easy Salutes 20 Years of Bayou City Blues

BigEasy20Yrs_09-0224.jpg
Photos by Marco Torres
Tommy Dardar and his band
Houston blues lovers showed up in throngs Friday night as Upper Kirby blues dive The Big Easy celebrated its 20th anniversary under the direction of Tom McLendon. One more person and the Fire Marshal couldn't have squeezed in to shut the place down if he had to.

Over two decades McLendon has kept his formula simple, the main pillar being to have great bands on Friday and Saturday night but never charge more than a $5 cover. If it's not danceable, McLendon doesn't book it, and if your band can't make it on that cover, book yourself somewhere else.

This past Friday, with veteran blues-boogie man Tommy Dardar laying in the funky grooves, the dance floor got a real workout. Dardar left no doubt he came to boogie, rocking hard into Chuck Berry's "You Never Can Tell" and then dropping the classic "Mardi Gras Mambo."


More »

Texas Guitar God Johnny Winter Is Forever True to the Blues

CurrentJohnny.jpg
Michael Weintraub/Sony
The quintessential Texas bluesman: Johnny Winter
A December 1968 edition of Rolling Stone featured Texas musicians who were at the time making inroads into the magazine's home city of San Francisco. Featuring a cover photo of cowboy-hatted Doug Sahm (balancing toddler son Shawn on his knee), it mentioned players and singers both known (Janis Joplin, Steve Miller, Boz Scaggs) and others familiar only to hardcore fans.

But it was a mention of a shit-hot blues player, Johnny Winter, that seemed to generate the most buzz. Soon, the Beaumont native found himself in demand. The article described "A cross-eyed albino with long, fleecy hair, who plays some of the gutsiest, fluid blues you ever heard."

A guest appearance with Mike Bloomfield and Al Kooper at the Fillmore East gave a major audience their first real look at this mythical figure. Columbia Records execs were in the audience, and it led to a then-unheard of advance for an unknown act -- a reported $600,000 -- resulting in Winter's 1969 self-titled debut.


More »

Don't Stand So Close to Her: Kristine Mills Does Sting

Categories: Blue Notes

KMills0122-2.jpg
Photos courtesy of Kristine Mills
On the list of post-punk and New Wave bands that borrowed from jazz, the Police are right at the very top. Their songs are full of unconventional time signatures, complex chord arrangements and plenty of improvisational moments. Instrumentally, Gordon Sumner (aka Sting), Andy Summers and Stewart Copeland all had chops for days. Most of all, the Police could conjure mysterious, shadowy moods that few of their more stylish, synth-loving peers could match.

But the Police were also a pop band, and eventually a hugely successful one. They became a high-school favorite of multiple Houston Press Music Award-winning jazz singer Kristine Mills, who says she was "obsessed with" the UK trio.

"I loved both 'Roxanne' and 'Don't Stand So Close To Me,'" she says. "We all tried to figure out the backstory."


More »

Shemekia Copeland's Blues Journey: "It Changed Who I Am"

Categories: Blue Notes


Shemek-1015.jpg
Sandrine Lee for Concord Music
Blues chanteuse Shemekia Copeland may have never actually lived in Houston, but as the daughter of legendary Bayou City bluesman Johnny "Clyde" Copeland (1937-1997), she heard a lot about it growing up.

"My daddy was from Houston, and Texans love being from Texas!" she laughs. "So it's a wonderful thing. He just loved being a Texan. And I am happy to represent him in that way."

And though she's only 34, Copeland has had plenty of experience stretching back to when her father would bring the teen out onstage as a little girl. Her debut record, Turn the Heat Up, appeared when she was only 19.

More »

Houston Music Hall of Famer Creole Joe Sample Is On a New Mission

JoeSample-MT-0925.jpg
Photo by Marco Torres
Joe Sample onstage at the Houston Press Music Awards in August, where he was inducted into the Houston Music Hall of Fame
Joe Sample is on a mission. While the illustrious keyboard genius behind the Crusaders continues to expand his career and is as in-demand at 75 as at any point in his life, these days he balances his commercial career with good works.

Inducted into the Houston Music Hall of Fame's inaugural class at last month's Houston Press Music Awards, Sample just released a new recording with his Creole Joe Band (see video below), a zydeco project that is dear to his heart. He test-drove the project earlier this year on some dates in Japan, then debuted the band in the U.S. a couple weeks back at Dosey Doe in The Woodlands before heading to New York City, where crowds at the Blue Note exceeded Sample's expectations.

Those who read the Houston Press' cover story on Sample's return to his alma mater, Texas Southern University, already know he spends a portion of his year teaching and developing upcoming talent. Sample's charity work is less visible, but is another important element in his division of labor.

More »

Kenny Wayne Shepherd Takes a Ride In New Blues-Rock Supergroup

TheRides-0919.jpg
Photo by Eleanor Stills
The Rides' three-headed honcho: Stephen Stills, Barry Goldberg and Kenny Wayne Shepherd
How the new guitar-centric blues-rock supergroup The Rides came together involves a genesis that's more football than foot pedals. But the core trio of singer/guitarists Stephen Stills and Kenny Wayne Shepherd and keyboardist Barry Goldberg couldn't be happier about the venture, whether it's a one-off project or one with more legs.

"This was an interesting opportunity for me to do something out of the norm. I've always wanted to put together a side project," Shepherd says from a stop on the band's current tour in support of debut CD Can't Get Enough (429 Records). "I wanted to be part of a band and have a new experience."

That experience started when Stills, coming off a nearly two-year world tour with day-job band Crosby, Stills and Nash, wanted to explore something bluesier for his next project; that or maybe he was just tired of playing "Our House" every night.


More »

Head Nightcat Rick Estrin: "Sometimes I Just Want to Chill"

Categories: Blue Notes

Nitecats0620.jpg
Photo by Kent Lacin/Courtesy of Alligator Records.
Lorenzo Farrell, Rick Estrin, J. Hansen, and Chris "Kid" Andersen
As one of the most dapper dudes in blues music (or any other genre), vocalist/harp player Rick Estrin has certain panache when it comes to his trademark hirsute upper lip.

"I don't groom it daily, I just shave around it. But yeah, just try to keep it from getting too long," he says. "I used to see guys that really have the real small perfect ones like Muddy [Waters] and John Littlejohn, and what they would do is take a razor blade in hand and edge it with that.

And that takes a real steady hand and skill!" he adds. "I've had a few times where I [messed up] and had to think, 'Do I leave it, or shave the whole thing off and let it grow back?'"

Estrin and his group, the Nightcats -- Chris "Kid" Andersen (guitar), Lorenzo Farrell (organ, bass), and J. Hansen (drums) -- will undoubtedly be checking out their looks in plenty of hotel room mirrors soon as they hit the road to support their new record, One Wrong Turn (Alligator).


More »

UPDATE: Charles Mingus: A Beginner's Guide to the Late Jazz Great

mingusmed 0425.jpg
UPDATE (April 27, 11:25 a.m.): Charles Mingus was not trained as the New York Philharmonic's principal bassist, but was trained by the orchestra's Herman Reinschagen.

True story: once, we were entertaining some people at home and my rat terrier, Mingus, got loose and began mingling with the guests. Because he's an insufferable attention-seeker and since people are nice and tend not to be threatened by terriers, a woman petted him and asked what his name was.

I told her and she said, "Oh, yeah, like the kid from Boy Meets World. Is there another one somewhere named Topanga?"

The woman was asked to leave my home immediately.

Okay, that last bit isn't true. But I did have to momentarily shelve my jazz snobbery and explain that 1) the fictional TV nerd's name was actually Minkus; and 2) my dog was named in honor of one of jazz's geniuses, Charles Mingus.

More »

Now Trending

From the Vault

 

Loading...