On Stage: Tommy Castro hits Sellersville

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By Denny Dyroff, Staff Writer, The Times

Tommy Castro and The Painkillers

Award-winning guitarist/vocalist Tommy Castro and his band The Painkillers will return to this area for a show on May 4 at the Sellersville Theater (24 West Temple Avenue, Sellersville, 215-257-5808, www.st94.com).

“We’ve played the Sellersville Theatre a number of times and always had a lot of fun,” said Castro, during a recent phone interview from “somewhere in New Jersey.”

“It’s a great place to play. We’re looking forward to it. It has good sound, good food and great audiences. We always had good shows there – and it’s the closest we’re getting to Philly on this tour.”

Tommy Castro & The Painkillers are currently on tour in support of their latest album, “Method to My Madness.”

Dubbed by Castro as the “Six Strings Down Tour,” this is a special tour with fellow guitarist/vocalist Mike Zito.

Zito is a guitarist, singer, producer, and songwriter from St. Louis, Missouri. He is a co-founder of Royal Southern Brotherhood that features Cyril Neville, Devon Allman, Charlie Wooton and Yonrico Scott.

Castro has released 15 albums in the last 20 years. His most recent “Method to My Madness” was released in 2015 on Alligator Records – the label on which he has released five records since 2009.

“This tour will have me and Mike playing together,” said Castro. “I’ve toured three times with ‘Method to My Madness’ so I wanted to do something different when we came out on tour this time.

“Mike and I had been taking about doing shows together for a while. I hadn’t really played with him before although we sat in with each other’s shows here and there. I think we jammed together on some blues cruises.

“This tour together was another brainstorm I had when I was booking shows for a spring tour. My new album won’t be out for a while and I wanted to do something new.”

While Castro’s music might be a bit different from Zito’s, the two musicians’ styles are complementary.

Over the course of his four-decade career, Castro, who is a six-time winner of the prestigious Blues Music Award-winner, has played thousands of shows to hundreds of thousands of fans.

Castro, one of San Francisco’s veteran music acts, has put together a top-flight band. The Painkillers feature bassist Randy McDonald, keyboardist Michael Emerson and drummer Bowen Brown.

“I started the Painkillers about four years ago,” said Castro. “Randy (McDonald), who has been with me for over 25 years, and I wanted to do something fresh and exciting — somewhat modern and somewhat traditional — and really rocking.

“My music isn’t so much about guitar as it is about songs. I’m probably more a singer than a guitar player. I like a good hook and I want songs that people remember.”

Castro and Zito are working on making music that people remember.

“You have two guitar players and two singers with different styles,” said Castro, who grew up in San Jose, California. “I suspected that we would get along well. From the first night we played together, it clicked.

“In our shows on this tour, we play a couple songs from ‘Method to My Madness,’ a couple of my older songs, some of Mike’s songs from Mike’s ‘Make Blues Not War’ record and some covers of blues classics.

“The show is pretty high energy with lot of guitar going on – a lot of jamming and letting it fly. We’re also doing a Chuck Berry tribute every night because Mike is from St. Louis.”

St. Louis was the home of recently-deceased rock-and-roll legend Chuck Berry.

Castro will likely be on the road again later this year after the release of his next album.

‘I’ll have a new album out in the fall,” said Castro. “It’s mostly done. My idea was to make a really strong blues album.

“When I started working on the songs, they sound like me – soul music, blued and rock. This album actually might be more rock-and-roll based – music I listened to growing up in San Jose.”

Video link for Tommy Castro –https://youtu.be/JG2y7yEd3us.

The show in Sellersville will start at 8 p.m. Tickets are $25 and $39.50.

Other upcoming shows at the Sellersville Theater are Lez Zeppelin on May 5, Dana Fuchs on May 6, and Joe Lynn Turner on May 7.


Also on May 4, there will be an area concert featuring music that is about as different as possible from the rocking music of Castro – a concert at the World Café Live (3025 Walnut Street, Philadelphia, 215-222-1400, www.worldcafelive.com) featuring Tunisian singer/songwriter Emel (whose full name is Emel Mathlouthi).

Emel, who is touring in support of her new album “Ensen,” has a unique musical style that blends elements of electronica, North African rhythms, and Western rock. She is best known as a protest singer and an icon of the Tunisian revolution.

Her song “Kelmti Horra (My Word Is Free)” went viral online and became the unofficial anthem of the Arab Spring (despite being banned from Tunisian radio play).

“Ensen” was recorded in seven countries with numerous producers including Valgeir Sigurðsson (Sigur Ros). Her debut album “Kelmti Horra (My Word is Free)” introduced her groundbreaking marriage of sounds steeped in Tunisian rhythms and electronic beats.

On “Ensen,” Emel has developed a style that is even more her own — combining organic and electronic sounds to produce a truly innovative record.

According to Emel, “It took a couple of years to realize the visions that were popping up inside me. I faced resistance from people wanting to keep me confined to an ‘ethnic box’ and trying to limit my creative freedom.”

Despite government censorship in Tunisia, Emel found relief and strength in the music of Baez, Dylan, Lennon, Pink Floyd and Led Zeppelin. She soon became known on the Tunisian alternative scene for her protest songs.

Emel recalled, “Little by little, more and more people started coming to my shows, telling me my words were a relief. But, I knew I’d never get anywhere in Tunisia, no matter how talented I was.

“While the songs on my first album developed on stage over a six-year period, ‘Ensen’ is a fully realized studio album. Producing it was a process of soul searching and liberating musical experimentation. I was looking for a deeper, limitless way of expressing myself.

“We initially recorded acoustic takes of the songs using piano, guitars and Tunisian style drumming. I then had the idea of creating my own library of electronic beats by running percussion and recorded sounds through several homemade setups.

“Then we added in analog keyboards, mixers, effects and distortion, and the result sounded nothing like anything we’d ever heard before.”

Video link for Emel – https://youtu.be/VgZifcSzVB8.

The show at the World Café Live, which has Briana Marela as the opener, will start at 8 p.m. Tickets are $12.

Other upcoming shows at the venue are Start Making Sense on May 5, Out of the Beardspace on May 6, Eddie Jobsoin and mark Bonilla on May 7,  and La Misa Negra on May 8.


“Talay” in Thailand means “seafood.”

“Talay” in New York means something entirely different – something tasty but hardly something fishy. It is the name of a music act from New York City.

Megan Talay is a talented rock musician based in the Westchester area just outside New York City, New York who performs simply as Talay.

On May 5, Talay will do a solo show at the Headhouse Café (122 Lombard Street, Philadelphia, www.headhousephilly.com, 215-922-2515).

On May 6, she and her band will perform at the “good! how are you fest” at Trafalmadore & Slime Time Live (Ellsworth Street between 24th and 25th, Philadelphia, goodhowareyou2017.com)

Talay will release her self-titled EP on June 2. Co-produced by Greg Mayo (Bernhoft, Delta Rae) and Zach Jones (Sting, A Great Big World, Wakey! Wakey!) and mixed by Ducky Carlisle (Demi Lovato, Rooney), it showcases her infectious pop-punk vibe and clever, snarky lyrics.

Talay has been playing iconic New York venues since she was 16, winning over fans with her infectious on-stage persona. In addition to her own project, she has become a sought-after session musician and spent some time playing in the highly-praised Guns N’ Roses tribute band Guns N’ Hoses.

“I always listened to music as a kid but I did the suburban thingh with dance classes,” said Talay, during a phone interview Monday from her home in Irvington, New York.

“Then, when I was 12 or 13, I started listening to pop-punk – bands like Fall Out Boy, Blink 182 and Green Day. I picked up a guitar in sixth grade and started taking lessons locally. Then, I got an electric guitar and started taking lessons with Greg Mayo, who is now my producer.

“I put an EP out in October 2015. It was definitely a different style than what I’m doing now so it doesn’t count. It was called ‘Piece by Piece’ and was acoustic-based folk-punk rock. It’s still the same songwriting but my voice is a lot different now. My vocals really developed between records.

“I played a lot of lead guitar in bands when I was in high school and then did the acoustic stuff when I was in college. A friend heard me play the acoustic stuff and said – where’s your Strat (Stratocaster electric guitar)? So, I became more of a rocker and adopted my mononym.”

And, she started working on her new “Talay” EP.

“It took a long time to make the EP because the musicians in my band are also busy with a lot of their own projects,” said Talay. “Drummer Zach Jones played with Sting. We made the record at Greg Mayo’s studio in White Plains.”

The EP, which Talay describes as “PunkyPoppyRockNRoll,” features five infectious tunes including an autobiographical song about her living conditions.

“That song is ‘Parents’ House’,” said Talay. “I still live in my parents’ house just outside New York City. It makes more sense than paying all that rent to live in Manhattan or Brooklyn.”

Video link for Talay – https://youtu.be/vhtWnA1e7zI.

The show at the Headhouse Café will start at 9 p.m. Tickets are $8.

Talay’s set at Trafalmadore on May 6 will start at 5 p.m. Tickets for the “good! how are you fest” are $9 and can be purchased athttp://goodhowareyou2017.brownpapertickets.com/.

J.D. Malone

J.D. Malone may not be living in his parents’ house but on May 6 will be playing a show at a location that is almost in his own backyard.

Malone, a versatile singer-songwriter-guitarist from New England who now lives in Phoenixville, will be headlining a show with his band the Experts at the Steel City Coffee House (203 Bridge Street, Phoenixville, 610-933-4043, www.steelcitycoffeehouse.com).

“I released my latest album ‘Town and County’ in March 2016,” said Malone, during a phone interview Wednesday from his home in Phoenixville. “I produced it and published it on my own. I do perform solo at times but I’m more of a band guy.

“I love the sound of a band and it will be a band show at Steel City. I spent a lot of effort on building the band sound. When I’m making records, I have my band contribute rather than be session guys. I try to cultivate the band mentality.”

The current line-up for J.D. Malone & the Experts features Avery Coffee on guitar, Tommy Geddes on drums, Nate Gonzalez on keyboards, Jim Miades on bass, Tom Hampton on lap steel, Michael Ronstadt on cello and Malone on vocals and guitar.

“It’s usually a five-piece,” said Malone. “This group — I call it the ‘First Call Guys,’ because they’re the first guys I call when I want to record or play a show. I’d rather not play an instrument. I’d rather just sing and be a front man.”

Malone not only lives in Phoenixville, he made his latest album there.

“I recorded the album at The Hacienda in Phoenixville with my friend Cliff Hillis,” said Malone, who celebrated his 52nd birthday last summer.

“It is mostly with my band. There are a couple tracks that have less of the band. My view for a song is to write a good basic song without the instrumentation written in stone.”

“We made the album from April 2015 through February 2016. Cliff Hillis co-produced it and played on some of the tracks. I’ve already started doing some pre-production work for my next album.

“Right now, I just go over to Cliff’s house to work on the stuff. It will take a few months to do the pre-production so I’m looking to take the band into the studio in September.

“The majority of the songs for the new album are already being played by the band in our current set – ‘The Strangest Oak,’ ‘Blue Impala,’ and ‘Soft Place to Land.’ I always like to road-test songs before I record them.”

Video link for J.D. Malone and the Experts –

The show at Steel City will start at 8 p.m. Tickets are $12. On May 5, Steel City will present “John Flynn Live.”

Kim Richey

Kennett Flash (102 Sycamore Alley, Kennett Square, 484-732-8295, http://www.kennettflash.org) will host Countdown to Ecstasy on May 5, John Cassidy and Friends on May 6 and Kim Richey on May 7.

The Ardmore Music Hall (23 East Lancaster Avenue, Ardmore, 610-649-8389, www.ardmoremusic.com) will have Splintered Sunlight on May 4, She Became Grey (Reunion Show) on May 5, Adrian Belew Power Trio on May 6, Countdown to Ecstasy on May 7 and Shannon McNally on May 10.

Burlap & Bean Coffeehouse (204 South Newtown Street Road, Newtown Square, 484-427-4547, www.burlapandbean.com) will present John Craigie and Jessy Tomsko on May 5, and Tin Bird Choir and Hinton, Bower, Jones on May 6.

The Keswick Theater (291 N. Keswick Avenue, Glenside, 215-572-7650, www.keswicktheatre.com) presents Marsha Ambrosius & Eric Benet on May 4, Dwight Yoakam on May 5, and Raffi on May 6.

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