We’re back in Helena, Arkansas, for the King Biscuit Blues Festival and we’ve got a killer show from Tommy Castro lined up. Then we catch up with the Mighty Mojo Prophets at the 2012 Blues Music Awards show in Memphis, TN.
We continue our guest series, Heavenly Sight: A Vision Out of Blindness.
According to all the press and hype and hoopla, Tommy Castro is pegged as the next big star of the blues. Long a favorite among Bay Area music fans, Castro — in the space of two album releases — has taken his music around the world and back again with a sheaf of praise from critics and old-time blues musicians alike. His music is a combination of soul-inflected rockers with the occasional slow blues or shuffle thrown into the mix to keep it honest. His vocals are laid-back and always a hair behind the beat, while his scorching guitar tone is Stevie Ray Stratocaster-approved. Crossover success does not seem out of the question.
Born and raised in San Jose, CA, Castro started playing guitar at the tender age of ten. Initially inspired by Mike Bloomfield, Eric Clapton, and Elvin Bishop, he started the inevitable journey into the roots of his heroes and discovered and quickly became enamored of B.B. King, Buddy Guy, Elmore James, Muddy Waters, and Freddie King. His vocal styling came from constant listening to Ray Charles, Wilson Pickett, James Brown, and Otis Redding. After playing with numerous Bay Area groups honing his chops, he landed a gig playing guitar for the San Francisco band the Dynatones, who were then signed to Warner Brothers. The two-year stint augured well for Castro, playing to the biggest crowds he had seen up to that point and backing artists as diverse as Carla Thomas and Albert King.
Returning to San Francisco, Castro formed his own group and in 1993 released his first self-produced album, No Foolin’, on the dime-sized Saloon label. That same year also saw him winning the Bay Area Music Award for Best Club Band, an honor he duplicated the following year. Working as the house band on NBC’s Comedy Showcase, airing after Saturday Night Live, only boosted his visibility and name value. In 1997, he won Bammies for Outstanding Blues Musician and for Outstanding Blues Album for his debut release on Blind Pig Records, Exception to the Rule. Also in 1997 Castro and his band began a three-year stint working as the house band on NBC’s Comedy Showcase, which aired after Saturday Night Live.
Live at the Fillmore was released in early 2000, and with everyone from industry insiders to B.B. King singing his praises, Castro appeared to be headed for bigger and better things. It was not to be, however, as in 2001 he left Blind Pig Records and recorded Guilty of Love for the small 33rd Street label. Blind Pig closed the books on their association with Castro in 2002 by releasing the career retrospective The Essential Tommy Castro. Gratitude appeared from Heart and Soul in 2003, followed by Triple Trouble (with Jimmy Hall and Lloyd Jones) later that same year from Telarc. 2005 saw Castro return to the Blind Pig label for the release of Soul Shaker, followed by Painkiller in 2007.
Long Beach, California was notorious in the ’80s and ’90s as ground zero for such blues greats as William Clark, Robert Lucas of Luke and the Locomotives, James Harman, The Mighty Flyer, Doug MacLeod, and Whiteboy James and the Blues Express. With heavyweight local influences like these, in addition to a steady stream of touring artists passing through the area, it is no wonder that the Mighty Mojo Prophets’ sound captures the irrepressible vitality and fun of Long Beach’s now legendary blues scene.
Rip Cat Records is thrilled and proud to feature The Mighty Mojo Prophets as the label’s first release. We are confident that the Mighty Mojo Prophets have set a formidable benchmark for subsequent offerings from our newly formed record company, and that blues fans will look forward with anticipation to many more forthcoming Rip Cat albums after experiencing this one!