Tommy Castro: Right as Rain
Originally pegged as the Bay area's answer to Stevie Ray Vaughn, Tommy Castro is an ace guitarist and supremely soulful singer. However, his music is more evocative of Memphis-style soul and roots-rock than Vaughn's Texas blues.
Right As Rain features flaming guitar solos, slick backup vocal choruses, jumping Memphis horns and famous guest stars (McClinton and Dr. John). It's a crossover album sure to garner the artist widespread attention beyond the blues world. Still, this one seems overly slick and a bit too calculated to please the masses.
This same material would have benefited from a live-in-the-studio approach. Instead, we're left with a glossy album that's representative of a disturbing trend in the blues: overproduction.
Castro's great talent rises above the glitzy presentation on a few tracks, such as the soulful "Just a Man" and the jump tune "Callin' San Francisco." Castro voice sounds uncannily like Delbert McClinton's, and we get to compare the two singers side-by-side as Castro and McClinton perform a duet on the Sam and Dave tune "Don't Turn Your Heater Down."
But blues is always more soulful when it's raw, and to these ears Right as Rain is mostly overcooked. The horns sound as if they were processed through a machine.
My final assessment: Right As Rain is not without soul, but it would have benefited from a bit less engineering.