Band of the Day

2014.01.24

Tommy Castro and The Painkillers

A fiery, high-octane tour de force of contemporary blues
She said the devil I that know's a cheater and a liar, now why would I be jumpin' from the pan into the fire?
lyrics from The Devil You Know

“I’m always moving forward, going outside of my wheelhouse, listening to new music and incorporating new ideas,” says award-winning guitarist/vocalist/songwriter Tommy Castro. “The contemporary blues scene is full of fresh, new sounds. It’s an exciting time.” Castro is famed for his signature brand of tough, rocking rhythm and blues, thrilling fans around the world with his incendiary live performances. With his turbo-charged new Alligator Records album, The Devil You Know, Castro strips his music down to its raw essence as he rockets into the next phase of his storied career.

The Devil You Know, recorded in the Bay Area with his fiery new band The Painkillers and produced by Castro and Bonnie Hayes, is a contemporary blues tour-de-force. The album is an untamed, high-energy set of 13 songs, including nine written or co-written by Castro. “For the new album I challenged myself to add different sounds and new rhythms to my style while remaining true to my roots. I wrote using ideas for songs and ideas for sounds together in a way I’d never done before,” explains Castro, “using drum rhythms to drive the lyrics.” The tracks—melodic and biting, energetic and fun—are brought to life with sonic authority by bassist Randy McDonald (from the original Tommy Castro Band), keyboardist James Pace and original Painkillers drummer Byron Cage.

In addition, many of Castro’s friends and admirers, including Alligator label-mates Marcia Ball and The Holmes Brothers, add their talents to the proceedings. Other guests include guitarists Joe Bonamassa and Mark Karan, guitarist/vocalist Tab Benoit, vocalists Samantha Fish and Tasha Taylor and harmonica player Magic Dick. Each song comes loaded with emotional depth and muscular hooks courtesy of Castro’s soulful singing, insightful lyrics and dynamic, potent guitar playing. With The Devil You Know, Castro—The Painkillers blazing behind him—unleashes an instant classic. According to Blurt, “Castro is one of the greatest blues guitarists, songwriters and entertainers in the world today.”

After years of playing guitar-driven blues and R&B backed by a tight horn section, Castro introduced The Painkillers live in 2012, creating a lean, mean four-piece lineup, with the drum chair now held by David Tucker. Fueled by Tommy’s voice and guitar plus bass, drums and keyboards, the band released the 45rpm single Greedy / That’s All I Got later that year (both songs are included as bonus tracks on the new CD). Greedy quickly became one of Castro’s most-requested songs. An attention-grabbing video for Greedy has already received over 150,000 views on YouTube. The Chicago Sun-Times calls his music “fiery and soul-drenched.”

Castro views the harder-edged sound of The Painkillers as a natural extension of the music he’s been making since he was a teenager. “The Painkillers really get me back to my roots. It feels to me a lot more like it did when I first started playing with my friends as a kid. Bands were always just three or four guys playing for the fun of it,” Castro recalls. Now, Tommy Castro And The Painkillers are pushing the music to another level.

Tommy Castro And The Painkillers are anxious to bring The Devil You Know to life on stage night after night, personally connecting with their fans all over the world. “A lot of folks are having hard times these days,” Castro says, “and they need something to lift them up and make them smile. Our music kills the pain.” With The Devil You Know, Castro, along with The Painkillers, will unquestionably be easing pain, lifting spirits and filling dance floors the same way he’s been doing for decades—only now he’s packing an even more feral punch.