Albert Castiglia is as funny as a stand-up comedian. His snarky between-song patter in his live shows rivals fellow guitar slinger Paul Thorn’s sly sense of humor. But Castiglia’s guitar prowess is no joke. Since being snatched from obscurity (he was a social services investigator in Miami) by Junior Wells, who made the young guitarist his bandleader in 1997, Castiglia’s ferocious guitar work has won him accolades, especially after he went solo in 2002.
It’s just a two-man job for this outing, with label owner and producer Mike Zito playing everything that Castiglia doesn’t — bass, drums, keys — and contributing some guitar riffs to Castiglia’s own blistering work. Castiglia wrote most of the material, with only two covers: Johnny Winter’s great druggie cut “Too Much Seconal” and Muddy’s “I Wanna Go Home.” Zito composed “Catch My Breath.”
The opener, “Bring on the Rain,” sounds like John Hiatt fronting Luther Allison. But there’s no Hiatt snark in this one — it’s a heartfelt thank you for filling a hole in his soul, connecting with a daughter and two grandchildren he didn’t know he had. Sounding like he’s caught in a summer downburst in his adopted Miami hometown (since the age of 5), Castiglia keeps the elements at bay with his guitar out-howling anything nature can throw at him.
Castiglia out-clangs Johnny Winter on his fuzz-toned interpretation “Too Much Seconal.” It’s a great makeover, dumping Link Wray and Winter into a cement mixer full of nails and cranking it to high, Zito’s piano sprinkling shattered glass all around Castiglia’s frenzied self-electrocution.
Woven into the industrial clang of “Keep on Swinging” is an upbeat message to never give up: “You never know where the road is gonna take you / keep the faith and don’t never let em break you. … keep on swinging and do it with all your might.”
Perhaps mellowed by his relationship with his newfound daughter, Castiglia’s “Love Will Win the War” is one of his most low-key offerings in recent memory. But the laid-back country-flavored melody belies the hardcore subject matter, looking back at the horrors of recent mass shootings: “Went to lose their blues in Vegas, studied down at Douglas High / now they’re flying with the angels / and all we do is wonder why.” But he does offer a solution on the choruses: “Hate might win some battles / but love will win the war.”
Castiglia forsakes the mellow once again for a muddy tribute to Muddy on “I Wanna Go Home,” big-foot stomping through the Delta mud and throwing out some meaty guitar hooks to ensnare whatever prey might wander by.
It is indeed a masterpiece, a stunning addition to Castiglia’s already stellar catalog.