albert castiglia
Albert Castiglia: Keepin’ on keepin’ on, and on multiple fronts to boot. (Photo ã2007 Suzanne Foschino Photography)

A Blues Man In Full
By David McGee

Albert Castiglia
Blue Leaf Records

As the title of his exemplary new collection of blues workouts indicates, Albert Castiglia is indeed keepin’ on, but he’s doing it on multiple fronts. First, he continues the music’s tradition of speaking the truth about what’s going on in the world and how the working folk are faring, which is not too good if you’ve been reading the headlines for the past few years—or living those headlines. Castiglia sounds like he’s in the latter category when, four songs in, he tears into his own screed at the moneychangers, “Keep On Keepin’ On.” Against a sonic backdrop of stomping percussion and his shimmering, foreboding guitar—before the latter transforms itself into a howling, stinging instrument of protest—Castiglia tells it as it is: “workin’ man makes just enough/to keep his family fed/finds his ass on a choppin’ block/goin’ out of his head/Mr. Banker, please I beg you/take your sign up off my lawn/it’s a new American dream/gotta keep on keepin’ on…” In one fell swoop the artist both makes vivid the precarious nature of the hour and expresses his undaunted conviction in his ability to press on in spite of everything falling apart all around him. In this context, and given the latest glowing reports of the auto industry’s comeback (take that, perennial dunce John Rich—“burning Detroit down,” my ass), it’s interesting to find Castiglia slyly kicking off this outing with Mack Rice’s “Cadillac Assembly Line,” heretofore best known in the grinding, surging version trademarked by Albert King. The Albert in question here, though, tackles it with fiery determination expressed in his spitfire vocal and angry, howling guitar. This is a man unbowed—he’s on his way to Motor City to get a job that isn’t “pickin’ that nasty cotton” and doesn’t entail him continually “sayin’ yes sir, boss.” (Oddly, he omits the verse about flying his woman in to join him if she keeps her blue jeans “zipped up tight.” Then again, such sentiments kind of go against the grain of the larger theme here.)

Albert Castiglia and dobro master Toby Walker at Showplace Studios in Dover, NJ, cutting Castiglia’s Delta-style love song, ‘Sweet Southern Angel,’ all jaunty guitars and affectionate musings. From Castiglia’s new Keepin On album.

But lest you think Castiglia has abandoned the serious business of the blues—trying to make sense of men and women together—think again. When it comes to lovin’, he discourses eloquently on the good, the bad and the ugly of said experience. On the good side, he transforms Dylan’s “Till I Fell In Love With You,” from the 1997 Daniel Lanois-produced Time Out of Mind album, into a celebratory blues stomp, giving it a Stevie Ray feel, with a steamy guitar solo and a freewheeling, loosey-goosey vocal infused with both wonder, humor and a welcome acceptance of the natural order of things when it comes to ways of the heart; Bill “Might” Quinn pumping away on B3 adds some nice atmosphere and robust punctuation to the proceedings when Castiglia takes off on his sizzling solos. In contrast to the high spirits of the Dylan tune, Castiglia sounds positively smitten by the romantic impulse on a steamy rendition of Peter Green’s “Could Not Ask for More,” a telling title if ever there was one. On the bad side, our man does a terrific job on the downcast, lonely blues of T-Bone Walker’s “My Baby Is Now On My Mind,” a deep blue rumination set in the aftermath of his woman’s departure from the fray, and made all the more agonizing by an agonized guitar solo that betrays the singer’s cool ruminations on his departed love in its shifting textures from single- and double-string voicings to distorted, chordal yawps and back. And on the ugly side, Castiglia enlists the formidable dobro artistry of Toby Walker to bring a chilling air of malevolence to the grim business of “Murderin’ Blues,” Robert Nighthawk’s ‘60s-era femicidal chiller that surely was inspired by Doctor Clayton’s 1940 tune “I’m Gonna Murder My Baby,” which was most famously recorded for Sun in 1954 by Auburn “Pat” Hare (otherwise noted for his pioneering use of distortion on James Cotton’s first Sun session, “Cotton Crop Blues” b/w “Hold Me In Your Arms,” in 1953). Sam Phillips found the song so disturbing her refused to release it at the time, but it finally surfaced on Sun anthologies beginning in 1990. The tragic postscript is that the talented Hare really did murder his baby, i.e. his girlfriend—albeit eight years later—along with an investigating police officer, and spent the next 16 years in jail before succumbing to cancer in 1980. Back on the good—make that beautiful—side, Walker also add some lovely, affecting dobro to a Castiglia acoustic original, the tender-hearted “Sweet Southern Girl,” which practically oozes with Delta romanticism thanks to the two jaunty acoustic guitars and the singer’s affectionate tone. Those who have been following Castiglia since the release of his debut CD (Burn) in 2002 know he’s been on an upward path since then, and are likely to be unsurprised by the depth of his artistry—vocally, instrumentally, and as a writer—he exhibits on Keepin On. Even so, this new long player is a bold step forward for him, and an indisputable sign that he’s ready to join the pantheon of contemporary blues men. To those new to Castiglia’s work, Keepin On is a memorable introduction.

Albert Castiglia’s Keepin On is available at

Founder/Publisher/Editor: David McGee
Contributing Editors: Billy Altman, Laura Fissinger, Christopher Hill, Derk Richardson
Logo Design: John Mendelsohn (
Website Design: Kieran McGee (
Staff Photographers: Audrey Harrod (Louisville, KY;, Alicia Zappier (New York)
Mailing Address: David McGee, 201 W. 85 St.—5B, New York, NY 10024