Tommy Castro - Hard Believer ( Alligator Rec. )

Ever since he first picked up a guitar and started making music, Tommy Castro believed. He believed he would not only be able to make a living playing music, but could develop his own signature sound and style. From his start playing in local Bay Area cover bands to joining the much-loved Dynatones to touring the world with his own band, Castro’s belief in himself has been rewarded. Today he is famed not only for his hard-hitting, impassioned vocals and his blues-infused, rocking R&B sound, but also for his striking, original songwriting and exhilarating stage show. According to The San Francisco Chronicle, “Castro navigates seriously funky Southern soul, gritty big city blues and scorching rock…his silvery guitar licks simultaneously sound familiar and fresh.” Castro (winner of the 2008 Blues Music Award as Entertainer Of The Year) is recognized as one of the absolute best blues and R&B players, singers and live performers in the world. With his Alligator Records debut, Hard Believer, Castro takes another major step forward in a career that never looks back.

Hard Believer was produced by John Porter (B.B. King, Elvis Costello, Buddy Guy, Keb Mo, The Smiths, Otis Rush, Billy Bragg, Roxy Music) and recorded in Castro’s hometown of San Rafael, California. The album is anchored by Castro’s soul-baring songs, filled with profound emotion and fueled by Castro’s powerful vocals and propulsive rhythms. “If there’s no groove there,” Castro told Guitar Player, “I can’t sink my teeth into it.” On Hard Believer, there are plenty of satisfying grooves to bite down on. But what really drives the songs home is Castro’s telepathic interaction with his band. The group operates as a single engine, firing on all cylinders, sometimes pushing the pedal to the floor, other times slowing things down for a simmering ballad.

Joining Alligator Records is a new high point in Castro’s career. “I feel that in signing with Alligator I’m making a major step forward. I’m excited about the new release and grateful for the opportunity to record for a label with such a rich history in blues and American roots music.”

Alligator president Bruce Iglauer is equally thrilled to have Castro in the Alligator fold, saying, “Tommy Castro has earned his huge and devoted fan following the old-fashioned way—by delivering thousands of totally knockout live performances, coast to coast. His energy level is unbelievable. He’s certainly a guitar hero, but even more than that, Tommy is simply a great singer, very soulful and very intense.

”Born in San Jose, California in 1955, Castro first picked up a guitar at age 10. He came under the spell of Eric Clapton, Elvin Bishop, Mike Bloomfield and other blues rock players early on. As he got older, Castro moved forward by investigating the past, falling in love with the blues guitar work of Muddy Waters, B.B. King, Freddie King, Buddy Guy, Elmore James and singers like Ray Charles, Wilson Pickett and James Brown. By his late 20s he was playing in a variety of San Francisco-area blues and soul bands.

Castro joined Warner Brothers artists The Dynatones in the late 1980s. The much-loved rocking soul band had a huge fan base and toured the U.S. constantly. He honed his chops with the band on the road for two years, performing live all across the country and backing major artists like Carla Thomas and Albert King. He formed The Tommy Castro Band in 1991 and won the Bay Area Music Award for Best Club Band in both 1993 and 1994. With his local fan base quickly expanding, he released his debut album, Exception To The Rule, in 1996 on Blind Pig. He began touring nationally with his band, picking up new fans everywhere he went. The album won the 1997 Bay Area Music Award for Outstanding Blues Album, and Castro also took the award for Outstanding Blues Musician that same year.

In the mid-1990s The Tommy Castro Band served as the house band for three seasons on NBC Television’s Comedy Showcase (airing right after Saturday Night Live), bringing him in front of millions of viewers every week. During the 1990s and into the 2000s, Castro released a series of critically acclaimed CDs for Blind Pig, Telarc and 33rd Street Records as well as one on his own Heart And Soul label. In 2001 and 2002 the legendary B.B. King asked Castro to open his summer concert tours. Castro received an open invitation to join the King Of The Blues on stage for the nightly finale.

Castro’s most recent releases, 2007’s Painkiller (Blind Pig) and 2008’s Command Performance: Legendary Rhythm & Blues Revue (Delta Groove) were immediate favorites with fans and critics alike. Both albums featured appearances by a number of guests, including Coco Montoya, Angela Strehli, Marcia Ball, Elvin Bishop, Magic Dick, Ronnie Baker Brooks, Curtis Salgado and Deanna Bogart. Painkiller won the 2008 Blues Music Award for Contemporary Blues Album Of The Year.

Publications across the country, from The Washington Post to The San Francisco Examiner, have sung his praises. Guitar Player called Castro “the hardest working bluesman on the scene today.” The Philadelphia Inquirer declared, “Castro plays infectious, roaring roadhouse romps with incendiary licks and a touch of New Orleans soul.” Carlos Santana, with whom Castro has performed, said, “Tommy Castro has the voice and the sound to touch everybody’s heart.” With Hard Believer and plenty of high-profile tour dates to follow, believing in the prodigious talent and unbridled energy of Tommy Castro is anything but hard.