Album review: ALBERT CASTIGLIA – Big Dog

On Sunday 11 September in the Pete Feenstra Feature on Get Ready to ROCK! Radio, Pete chats to Albert Castiglia about his music with tracks from ‘Big Dog’

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Albert Castiglia - Big Dog

Ruf [Release date 20.05.16]

‘Big Dog’ is a bulldozer of an album. It’s a prime slice of blue collar blues-rock that brims with vitality and commitment. It’s the product of years of road work and songs crafted in the back of the tour bus.

It’s a fierce, red raw album on which Albert teams up with Mike Zito and his band for a live in the studio session. Both guitarists bring out the best in each other as Albert leans into the material with a primal aggression, while producer/guitarist Mike Zito is the perfect foil, smoothing out the raw edges without losing the spark.

It’s all best evidenced by the gentle flowing ‘Easy Distance’, on a great meeting of melody, groove, saw-tooth guitar and growled out vocals.

‘Big Dog’ is an incendiary Chicago style blues-rock album, glued together by Scot Sutherland’s cloying bass lines, while keyboard player Lewis Stephens’s mix of organ, piano and Wurlitzer brings light and shade, and slick dynamics to bear on a well balanced album.

Mike Zito’s deft production allows the music to breathe and the solos to shine as he captures the lightning in the bottle.

The opening three bone crunching tracks are arguably the best of Albert’s career. They set a standard that the rest of the album cleverly emulates through contrasting styles.

There’s sauce king Bill Wharton’s self explanatory ‘Let The Big Dog Eat’, a mighty Castiglia/Zito duet ‘Don’t Let Them Fool Ya’ and the essential re-statement of core road values and paying your dues on ‘Get Your Ass In The Van’, complete with some coruscating slide.

‘Big Dog’ is a career high for Albert, if only because it nails his true rough-edged style,  from his gruff, passionate vocals to some of the most scorching guitar lines I’ve heard this year.

Fellow songsmith and guitar slinger Mike Zito settles for nothing less than full throttle intensity. And it’s that gung-ho approach that breathes fresh life into the Luther Allison and James Solberg’s co-write ‘Drowning At The Bottom’, no mean feat when you are covering the material of one of the most committed bluesmen of his era.

Such is the avalanche of energy and emotion that Albert’s self penned ‘Let’s Make Love In The Morning’ acts as a tension breaker, as the band settles for an acoustic and layered organ sound over which he adds cutting edge electric guitar.

He also delivers his most expressive vocal on the Cyril Neville co-write ‘Somehow’. His vocal evokes Neville’s emotive lyrical imagery and comes close to Van Morrison’s heartfelt phrasing.

He dips back into his past for a cover of Jr. Wells’s ‘Where Did I Go Wrong’, which features Johnny Sansone on harp, in between the sparring guitars and Lewis Stephens’s piano

Sansone also makes his mark with some notable tonal variation on the hook of ‘Where The Devil Makes His Deals’, while ‘What The Hell Was I Thinking’ is a country tinged boogie full of lyrical reflection and bass ass playing.

‘Big Dog’ is an all too rare example of an artist going into the studio to attack his material with exactly the same ferocity as he delivers at his gigs.

As a result ‘Big Dog’, rocks hard and burns with real intensity and an impregnable spirit that will surely bring Albert Castiglia a new legion of new fans.  ****½ 

Review by Pete Feenstra 

Pete Feenstra presents his Rock & Blues Show on Get Ready to ROCK! Radio every Tuesday at 19:00 GMT, and “The Pete Feenstra Feature” on Sundays at 20:00

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David Randall presents a weekly show on Get Ready to ROCK! Radio, Sundays at 22:00 BST (GMT+1, repeated on Mondays and Fridays), when he invites listeners to ‘Assume The Position’. This show was first broadcast on 14 March 2021 and includes the Top 10 albums at for that week.

UK Blues Broadcaster of the Year (2020) Pete Feenstra presents his weekly Rock & Blues Show on Tuesday at 19:00 ( BST, GMT+1) as part of a five hour blues rock marathon “Tuesday is Bluesday at GRTR!”. The show is repeated on Wednesdays at 22:00, Fridays at 20:00). This show was first broadcast 23 March 2021.

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