On Stage: Blues fans, this is your time for great local shows

By Denny Dyroff, Entertainment Editor, The Times

Christone “Kingfish” Ingram

We’re in the midst of a stretch of live concerts that will have blues music fans in the area in hog heaven (which is defined as “a state of complete happiness”).

Over a period of two weeks, the area’s concert schedule features performances by Selwyn Birchwood, Christone “Kingfish” Ingram, Mike Zito, Albert Castiglia, Samantha Fish, Tommy Castro, Deanna Bogart, Canned Heat, the Jimmy Pritchard Band, the Erin Harpe Country Blues Duo and the Philly Blues Kings.

Things will really heat up on April 1 when the Kimmel Cultural Campus (250 South Broad Street, Philadelphia, www.kimmelculturalcampus.org) presents a concert by Christone “Kingfish” Ingram at the Merriam Theater.

Many blues guitarists have been playing for decades. Ingram’s guitar playing gives listeners the impression that he too has been at it for decades. In reality, he is barely two decades old. He was born in Mississippi in January 1999 and has been exposed to the blues since he was a toddler.

Ingram is now touring in support of his new Alligator Records album, “662.” The tour — “Christone “Kingfish” Ingram Presents 662: Juke Joint Live” — will take the 22-year-old guitarist, vocalist and songwriter across the U.S. and Europe that began in July 2021 andis still going strong.

In addition to the Grammy nomination (his second in two years), “662” was named the #1 Best Blues Album of 2021 by UK tastemaker magazine, MOJO. Rolling Stone declared, “Kingfish is one of the most exciting young guitarists in years, with a sound that encompasses B.B. King, Jimi Hendrix and Prince.”
Upon its July 2021 release, “662” debuted at #1 on the Billboard Blues Chart, and it’s remained on the chart ever since. “662” was recorded in Nashville and co-written and produced by Grammy-winner Tom Hambridge. It features 13 songs (and one previously released bonus track) displaying many sides of Ingram’s personality, as well as his one-of-a-kind guitar and vocal skills. Ingram’s debut, “Kingfish,” was named the #1 Best Blues Album of 2019.

“I’ve been out here on the road for a while,” said Ingram, during a phone interview Wednesday afternoon from a tour stop in Boston.

“Everything is going great. I’ve been selling out shows everywhere.”

With Alligator Records still in the midst of its 50th anniversary celebration, label founder and president Bruce Iglauer said, “I’m very proud of these Alligator artists getting the international recognition they so richly deserve. These days we need the healing power of the blues more than ever, and these wonderful bluesmen and women have delivered that healing power on their albums.”

“662,” which debuted at #1 on the Billboard Blues chart, is the next chapter in the still-unfolding story of the Clarksdale, Mississippi native. Ingram describes “662” (the number is northern Mississippi’s telephone area code) as “a presentation of my life in and away from the Delta.” The album overflows with hard-hitting original songs, jaw-dropping guitar work and deep, soul-possessed vocals. Ingram recently won the 2021 Living Blues Award for Most Outstanding Musician (Guitar).

He also won two 2021 Blues Music Awards (for Guitarist Of The Year and Contemporary Blues Male Artist Of The Year) in addition to the five he won last year. In February 2021, Ingram guest hosted Spotify’s popular “In The Name Of The Blues” playlist, which featured him talking about and sharing some of his favorite songs.

“662” was co-written and produced by Grammy-winner Tom Hambridge. It features 13 songs displaying many sides of Ingram’s dynamic personality, as well as his one-of-a-kind guitar and vocal skills.

“I actually recorded ‘662’ during the pandemic,” said Ingram. “We spent a full week at Ocean Way Studio in Nashville, which was the same studio I used for my first album. We had writing sessions on Zoom from May through September and then went in the studio two weeks later.

“It went pretty smooth. I learned a lot from making my first record. It helped having Tom produce both of my albums. He knows how to pull things out of me.

“The new album shows my growth. It was two years since my first record, and I had a lot of things happen in my life. My mom passed away. Then there was COVID.

“I wanted to make a personal record. I wanted to show a different side. People know me for edgy and hardness, but I also have a soul and R&B vibe.

“We had 20 songs going into the studio and recorded them all. We used 13 and we’ll use the other songs later.”

Ingram is slowly working on his next album.

“I’m still writing,” said Ingram. Every now and then I’ll get a lyric. The new album will have some new songs and some older ones. It’s like a big melting pot.

“I haven’t gotten into the studio yet. I work on ideas in my home studio. I have my own setup to put ideas down and then make them ready for the studio. When they’re ready, I’ll take them to Tom Hambridge.”

Ingram grew up with the blues.

“I come from Clarksdale, Mississippi – the Mecca of blues,” said Ingram.

“I remember seeing the PBS documentary on Muddy Waters when I was pretty young. And I lived next door to a blues band. I was exposed to the blues a lot as a young child.

“I actually started as a bass player. My first paid gig playing bass was with the All Night Long Blues Band. I was 11 at the time.”

It didn’t take long for Ingram to switch from bass to lead guitar.

“I was playing bass, but I always wanted to play guitar,” said Ingram. “But, when I was young, my fingers were too big for guitar.

“When I was 14-15, I played guitar for a local band. I just wanted to do something different. I wanted to put my own thing together. I wanted to play guitar. Playing guitar was original.

“I started with a cheap Sears & Roebuck guitar. An Epiphone 335 was my first real guitar.  I got it for Christmas when I was in middle school.”

Ingram explained the origin of his nickname.

“My mentor from the Delta Museum gave kids nicknames,” said Ingram. “He called me Kingfish. He said Kingfish who was a character on the ‘Amos ‘n’Andy Show.’

“My biggest influences were Albert King, Little Milton, B.B. King, Son House, Freddie King and Skip James. I was also influenced by Ernie Isley, Jimi Hendrix, Prince and George Benson.

“Even though I was influenced by Jimi and Prince, I never had an actual intent to merge rock and blues. I just want to experiment and see what I come up with. I just like to create stuff.”

Ingram is known for making his guitar sing.

“Making the guitar sing – that’s when playing with substance comes into play,” said Ingram. “I love playing originals. I’m still writing when I’m on the road.

“On tour, it’s a three-piece – bass, drums and me. Both of the other guys in the band are from Mississippi. Bassist Paul Rogers is from Tupelo and drummer Chris Black is from Shelby.”

The show in Philly will feature an opening act worth seeing.

“I just started this part of the tour a month ago,” said Ingram. “The opening act is four women who are really good – especially Rissi Palmer.”

Video link for Christone “Kingfish” Ingram – https://youtu.be/kDuIELUSzxU.

The show at the Merriam Theater on April 1 will start at 7:30 p.m.

Ticket prices range from $24-$45.

Selwyn Birchwood

Another show on April 1 will feature another young but very experienced blues guitarist – Selwyn Birchwood.

Birchwood will visit Berks County to headline a concert at the DoubleTree by Hilton Hotel (701 Penn Street, Reading) as part of the 2022 Berks Jazz Fest (berksjazzfest.com).

With his fiery guitar and lap steel playing, his trailblazing, instantly memorable songs and gritty, unvarnished vocals, Birchwood is among the most extraordinary young stars in the blues. His deep familiarity with blues tradition allows him to bust the genre wide open, adding new sounds, colors and textures, all delivered with a revival tent preacher’s fervor and a natural storyteller’s charisma.

His latest album is “Living In A Burning House,” which was released last year on Alligator Records.

“The album won two Blues Music Awards,” said Birchwood, during a phone interview Wednesday morning from on the road (somewhere in North Carolina or Virginia).

“It got the award for ‘Contemporary Blues Album’ and for ‘Song of the Year’ and my band member Reggi Oliver got one for ‘Best Horn Player.’

“We finished making the album in December 2019. It was set to be released in May 2020. Obviously, 2020 had different plans. It finally came out in January 2021. I was ecstatic with the reception it got.”

Like all musicians, Birchwood had to adapt to life during the pandemic.

“It was a culture shock to be home,” said Birchwood, who lives in Tampa, Florida. “In ordinary times, I’m never home. I’m really glad to be on the road again.

“We released the new album in 2021. Even with so much uncertainty, we decided to put it out. We did two shows in Janaury 2021 when the album came out – shows with social distancing. We didn’t do any concerts outsidse the state until mid-2021.

“Now, we’ve got overseas stuff coming up including festivals in Europe and blues cruises. We have 14 shows on this tour. This is our first real tour since the album came out.”

For “Living In A Burning House,” Birchwood wrote and arranged 13 new songs, and brought in famed Grammy Award-winning musician/producer Tom Hambridge (Buddy Guy, Christone “Kingfish” Ingram, Susan Tedeschi) to produce. From the rocking opener “I’d Climb Mountains” to the sweet soul of “She’s A Dime” and “One More Time” to the hair-raising “Revelation,” “Living In A Burning House” features some of the most vividly striking writing on today’s blues scene.

“With the new album, I’m really trying to straddle the line between contemporary and traditional. I’m just trying to find my own stuff. I think people would be hard-pressed to name another band like us. When I’m asked to describe my music, I use four words – electric swamp funk blues.”

Since the 2014 release of his Alligator Records debut, “Don’t Call No Ambulance,” Birchwood has made a meteoric rise from playing small Florida clubs to headlining international festival stages.

That album received the Blues Music Award and Living Blues Critics’ Award for “Best Debut Album of 2014,” and Birchwood won the 2015 “Blues Blast Rising Star Award.”

Birchwood’s follow-up was “Pick Your Poison” in 2016.

Birchwood wrote and produced all 13 songs on his latest album “Pick Your Poison,” which was released in 2017 on Alligator Records. The album is a testament to Birchwood’s overflowing talents as a blues master – despite his young age of 36.

“The ‘Pick Your Poison’ album was nominated for two Blues Music Awards,” said Birchwood. “We started making ‘Pick Your Poison’ in May of 2106.

“It was a real challenge for us to get in the studio because our tour schedule was so crazy. I had to do it two or three days at a time. I didn’t finish it until December. We did it at Phat Planet Studio in Orlando. It’s a great studio with a lot of great gear.

Birchwood is one of the top acts to emerge in the world of blues music in recent years. In 2013, he won the world-renowned International Blues Challenge — beating out 125 other musicians from the U.S. and abroad.

He also took home the Albert King Guitarist of the Year Award. After that, it didn’t take long for Alligator Records president Bruce Iglauer to offer Birchwood a contract.

“Bruce heard me play at IBC (International Blues Challenge) in Memphis,” said Birchwood.

“I gave him some of my tracks to listen to. I was just hoping to get his opinion on them. Instead, he asked me to make an album for his record label.”

Birchwood was born in 1985 in Orlando, Florida. He first grabbed a guitar at age 13 and soon became proficient at mimicking what he heard on the radio. But the popular grunge rock, hip-hop and metal of the 1990s didn’t move him, and he quickly grew bored.

Then he heard Jimi Hendrix. By the time he was 17, Birchwood was deep into the blues — listening to Albert King, Freddie King, Albert Collins, Muddy Waters, Lightnin’ Hopkins and especially Buddy Guy.

“When I was young, I decided I wanted to play an instrument and landed on guitar,” said Birchwood. “I was bored with just hearing the stuff on the radio in the late 90s.

“When I heard Jimi Hendrix for the first time, I was blown away. It was like a spaceship landed. Then, I started listening to Hendrix’ roots — Muddy Waters, John Lee Hooker, Buddy Guy.

“Buddy Guy was one of my favorites. He was coming on tour to the House of Blues in Orlando when I was 17 and living there. I went to his show and was completely floored. I said — what I’m feeling coming off this stage is what I want to do.”

Video link for Selwyn Birchwood — https://youtu.be/NcxdptrFQCc.

The Berks Jazz Fest show on April 1 will start at 7:30 p.m. Tickets are $39.

Tommy Castro and The Painkillers

Tommy Castro and his band The Painkillers will bring their brand of blues to the Steel Stacks Musikfest Café (101 Founders Way, Bethlehem, www.steelstacks.org). The show will be a double treat for blues fans because it also features Deanna Bogart, who has been one of America’s top blues musicians for decades.

Tommy Castro & The Painkillers featuring bassist Randy McDonald, drummer Bowen Brown and keyboardist Michael Emerson are doing what they do most of the year – touring.

“We had some rehearsals back home,” said Castro, during a phone interview last week from a tour stop in Fairfield, Connecticut. “For this tour, we play songs from the new album.  Then, I bring Deanna up for some of her songs and then we all play songs from our 30-year history.”

Castro is celebrating the release of his trailblazing new album, “Tommy Castro Presents A Bluesman Came To Town.”

The album is a raucous, multi-song tale of a young man bitten by the blues bug. It is a striking collection of songs that tell the story in vivid lyrics and are brought to life by Castro’s patented roadhouse rock, soulful ballads, and deep, greasy grooves.

“I’m always interested in new sounds and trends,” said Castro.

“With the new one – I said, ‘what am I going to do now?’ It’s a rock opera but it’s like a blues opera.

“I ran it by Bruce (Alligator Records president Bruce Iglauer) and he didn’t hate it. We jumped over that hurdle.

“I still had to decide if I was biting off too much. Rock operas had songs that were very different – and a story to listen to from front-to-back. I moved on to producer Tom Hambridge and he thought it was a really good idea.”

On his website, Castro wrote, “I try to keep my music fresh by taking different approaches and writing and recording different types of songs. I want to stretch out musically, but I always want the songs to be my most authentic, to remain true to myself and my art. This time, I felt the need to do something I’ve never done before.

“With ‘A Bluesman Came To Town,’ what I have for you is a record of songs that tell a story. It’s the story of a young man from a small town. One day a guitar-playing bluesman comes to his town. From that point on, the young man’s life will never be the same. It’s based on a classic hero’s journey — the odyssey of a musician’s life.

“I brought in the big guns this time and collaborated with Tom Hambridge. I co-wrote most of the songs with him. In telling the story, I’ve tried to touch on the many different styles of music that I love. I’m excited for you to hear it!”

Castro created his most ambitious project ever.

“It’s about a kid from rural America who saw his life laid out for him,” said Castro. “He had other dreams. A bluesman came to town, and it changed his life.

“The bluesman told the kid that he was good and that he should go out. He did and played his music – and had to deal with drugs, alcohol and women. Through the process, he finds out what’s important in life. That was the treasure.”

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 who now lives in Palm Springs, has put together a stellar band.

“I started the Painkillers a few years ago,” said Castro. “Randy (McDonald), who has been with me for over 25 years. 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.”

With 40-plus years as a road musician, award-winning bandleader, and multi-instrumentalist, Bogart, who is Castro’s wife, has built a legion of fans for her adventurous, original, and diverse music career.

She is recognized for her show-stopping dazzling keyboard work, her soulful saxophone playing and her smoky vocals – along with her impressive songwriting skills. Bogart is also a highly respected composer, arranger and producer.

She began her career in the Baltimore and Washington D.C. area with the ensemble Cowboy Jazz. After that band broke up. Bogart spent time playing with Root Boy Slim. In the early 1990s she began her solo career.

She is a four-time winner of the BMA (Blues Music Awards) “Horn Instrumentalist of the Year” award. In 2013, Bogart was nominated for a Blues Music Award in the “Pinetop Perkins Piano Player” category.

Video link for Tommy Castro — https://youtu.be/BmBfrPIjxdU.

Video link for Deanna Bogart — https://youtu.be/6kkt5XKD6BA.

The show on March 31 will start at 7:30 p.m.

Tickets are $25 and $29.

The “blues invasion” will continue on April 6 at the Sellersville Theater (24 West Temple Street, Sellersville, 215-527-5808, www.st94.com).

Gulf Coast Records announced what promises to be one of the year’s major tours featuring Blues Music Award-winners Mike Zito and Albert Castiglia.

Zito and Castiglia have come together to create a musical journey unlike anything seen before in the blues and roots genre. Armed with a history of the blues and rock and roll, they bring both bands together on what is billed as, “Blood Brothers Tour 2022 – Two Brothers, Two Bands, One Amazing Show.”

Both blues guitarists are celebrating the release of highly acclaimed new albums — Zito’s double live set, “Blues for the Southside,” which was released on February 18 and debuted at Number One on the Billboard Blues Chart, and Castiglia’s new album, “I Got Love,” which was just released on March 25.

“I’ve known Albert for 12 years,” said Zito, during a phone interview Wednesday while stuck in a huge traffic jam on an interstate in Ohio.

“We just hit it off right away. We’re cut from the same cloth – Italian-American blues players.”

Albert Castiglia

In a phone interview Wednesday, Castiglia said, “The catalyst for this tour was in early 2021. He wanted to do a slew of shows around his Chuck Berry release. He asked me and Joanna Connor to do three dates with him.

“It was amazing. We got great response and that led to us getting on a blues cruise.

“Mike told me – we’re going to put this tour together with the two of us. Mike always makes things happen and I go along with what he wants. With us, he’s like Frank Sinatra and I’m like Dean Martin.”

Zito has released four albums over the last four years — “Rock ‘N’ Roll – A Tribute To Chuck Berry” in 2019, “Quarantine Blues” in 2020, “Resurrection” in 2021 and “Blues for the Southside” this year.

“We toured ‘Resurrection’ last year,” said Zito, a five-time Blues Music Award winner. “We’re still touring ‘Resurrection.’ We played more shows last year than most bands. We did 30 shows just in December.”

One of those shows late last year resulted in “Blues for the Southside.” The album was recorded on November 26, 2021 at the Old Rock House in St. Louis, Missouri, and produced by Mike Zito.

“Blues for the Southside” showcases Zito (guitar and vocals) and his band — Matthew Johnson – vocals/drums; Lewis Stephens – piano/organ; Doug Byrkit – vocals/ bass, with special guest guitarists Tony Campanella, Dave Kalz and Eric Gales.

According to Zito, “‘Blues for the Southside’ is a special album for me. I have wanted to do a live blues album playing songs from my catalog with my current band for a while now. I wanted to go back to my old neighborhood in South St. Louis to make the recording.

“That’s where it all began for me, where I fell in love with music. I knew friends and family would fill the Old Rock House and bring the energy I was looking for in this recording.

“I wanted Tony Campanella and Dave Kalz to join me as guests. I grew up with both of these guys playing in the scene in St. Louis in the 1990s. I was surprised by my dear friend Eric Gales, who happened to be in town for a rehearsal. He showed up and I got him onstage to do an impromptu version of the original ‘Voodoo Chile,’ which turned out to be 12 minutes of pure guitar bliss. I am proud of this album and my band.”

The tour has dual headliners playing shorter sets than usual.

“We’re each doing a 45-minute set,” said Zito. “Albert plays first and then I play my set. After that, Albert and his band come out and we play some songs together. It’s pretty powerful with two guitarists and two drummers.

“I’m playing three songs from ‘Resurrection.’ It’s the newest so it gets more attention. I also do a Chuck Berry song when Albert comes out.”

Zito’s “Rock N Roll: A Tribute to Chuck Berry” was released on November 1, 2019, and quickly rose to #1 on the Billboard Blues Chart.

Featuring 21 guest guitarists honoring the Berry including Joe Bonamassa, Walter Trout, Eric Gales, Robben Ford, Richard Fortus, Sonny Landreth, Luther Dickinson, Albert Castiglia, and Anders Osborne. Also performing on the album is Charles Berry III, Berry’s grandson. The album is produced by Zito and was recorded at his Marz Studios.

“The Berry album was released at the beginning of November 2019,” said Zito. “We wanted to go out with a big band with horns. Because of COVID-19, we didn’t get the tour we had hoped for. We did a big show in St. Louis and then everything came to a halt.

“I probably wouldn’t tour the Berry album now. Maybe I’ll do just one Berry show each year – in St. Louis. I grew up in St. Louis. Chuck was from St. Louis, and I lived there for 32 years. When I was young, I worked at a small musical instrument store in a record store and Chuck used to come in there.

“Being away from St. Louis for the last 17 years, I wanted to do something about St. Louis. If you’re a musician from St. Louis, you have to learn to play Chuck Berry and learn how to play the blues. So, I decided to do a Chuck Berry tribute and add the guitarist aspect.”

Making an album like the one Zito did on Berry’s music provided special challenges.

“I recorded the album without the guitarists initially,” said Zito. “I decided how much space to leave for the guitar and then had to send off the tracks to the different guitarists. I could never bring them to my studio to record live because they’re always on tour playing all over the country.

“The best way to do it was to accommodate them as much as possible. I’d send them a track and say – send it back in four or five months. I went into this knowing I’d need a big window.

“As the songs came back, I had to re-record my parts to make sure the intensity was the same. In the end, it sounded like we were in the studio together. I’m pretty proud of the production. The album was completed at the end of July.”

The album was produced by Zito and was recorded at his Marz Studios in Nederland, Texas. The same situation existed for Zito’s new album, “Quarantine Blues” – sort of.

“Quarantine Blues” was recorded during the heart of the coronavirus pandemic and served as a healing love letter to his fans around the world that heralded better days ahead if we’d all just stick together.

“When I made ‘Quarantine Blues,’ the band wasn’t together in the studio,” said Zito. “No-one was together. Our drummer Matt Johnson was in North Dakota. Our bassist Duve Syrkit was in St. Louis and our keyboard player Lewis Stephens was in Forth Worth, Texas.

“I knew there was a way. We just had to try it – trial and error and we got it done. There were no overdubs, but we made do.

“I’d write a song playing guitar with a click track and then send it to Matt. He’d send it back and then it would go out to the other guys.

“It was a 14-day project. The whole 14 days were consumed with how we would write, record, mix and release a new album. 14 days and on the 15th day, it was released.”

Zito began playing guitar at the age of five, and by the time he reached his late teens, he was already a fixture on the local St. Louis music scene. He initially released his music independently and then signed with Eclecto Groove Records in 2008. “Pearl River,” the title track of his 2009 album for the label, won Song of the Year at the Blues Music Awards and marked his first collaboration with Cyril Nevill, with whom he’d later work in the Royal Southern Brotherhood.

A steady succession of critically acclaimed albums followed, culminating in 2011’s “Greyhound,” which was nominated for Best Rock Blues Album at that year’s Blue Music Awards ceremony in Memphis. Two years later, he signed with Ruf Records and released “Gone to Texas,” the story of how he gained his sobriety, offered an emotional homage to the state that

left an indelible imprint on his entire life. It also marked the debut of his band, the Wheel.

​From 2010-2014, Zito also played an integral role in the super group of sorts, Royal Southern Brotherhood. The group released two albums and a DVD — “Songs from the Road – Live in Germany,” which was winner of the year’s Blues Music Award for Best DVD.

Zito recently launched his own new label, Texas-based Gulf Coast Records, which has an artist roster featuring Billy Price, Jimmy Carpenter, Tony Campanella, Diana Rein, The Proven Ones, and Kid Andersen – and Albert Castiglia.

Video link for Mike Zito – https://youtu.be/Bbxcj29b5Iw.

Castiglia’s new album, “I Got Love,” was produced by Zito and features Justine Tompkins (bass and vocals), Ephraim Lowell (drums and vocals), Lewis Stephens (Hammond B3 organ and piano) and Castiglia (guitar and vocals).

It showcases 11 intense, blues-drenched tracks and is a personal and powerful statement from Castiglia.

According to Castiglia, “The album is a musical essay documenting the last two years of my life — two years of many highs and lows. It’s about falling, failing, adapting, reinventing, surviving and becoming triumphant.

“The blues and blues-infused music is rooted in truth. This album is my truth. To ignore the events of the past two years (the COVID era) and write about anything else would not be my truth. I went through it all – loss, depression, illness, fear of the unknown.

“I know I couldn’t have been the only one that went through it. This collection of songs is for those who felt like I did. It’s for those who went down fighting and those who keep on fighting. For many of us in my profession and in the gig economy, this was our great depression. Some of us are doing well and some of us are still trying to find solid ground.”

“I Got Love” officially dropped on March 25.

“I recorded ‘I Got Love’ at Dockside Studio in Maurice, Louisiana,” said Castiglia, who lives in Fort Lauderdale Florida.

“It’s a wonderful studio in the middle of a bayou. It has a mix of digital and analog equipment including a 48-track Neve board. We recorded it back in November and it just came out this month.

“I only get to play seven or eight songs in my set. I’ll try to do at least two or three new ones. I also have to play older ones because people want to hear my ‘standards.’”

Castiglia’s two previous albums were “Masterpiece” in 2019 and “Wild and Free” in 2020. Castiglia was the 2020 BMA winner for Blues Rock Album of the Year with “Masterpiece.”

“When ‘Masterpiece’ came out, we toured pretty heavily that year,” said Castiglia. “We did a winter tour in early 2020. We were in Switzerland and there were rumblings of a pandemic in the states.

“We got home and did shows in Atlanta and Tallahassee. We were on our way up to Delaware for a show in St. George’s when the owner called and said – hold on. He called again and said that the state had shut down. So, we turned around and headed home.

“We put out ‘Wild and Free’ in 2020. COVID was part of the inspiration. There were no real rules where we lived – in Florida. We just had to adapt to what was happening. I did gigs and then got heat from the other side.

“For musicians, the pandemic was a time of depression. We lost all those gigs and had to find a way to make up for it.

“Our drummer is a handyman, so he found work. So did our bass player, who is an office worker. I improvised — teaching lessons by Zoom and doing virtual shows. It was a tough couple years but we found a way to get through it.”

Castiglia was born on August 12, 1969 when the planets were getting in cosmic alignment to welcome the hundreds of thousands of music fans who had already begun their journey to New York State to attend “Woodstock Music & Art Fair: An Aquarian Exposition.”

A lot of blues acts performed live during those three historic days including the Paul Butterfield Blues Band, Johnny Winter, Keef Hartley Band, and Canned Heat along with blues-influenced rock bands such as the Jimi Hendrix Experience, Mountain, Ten Years After and Blood, Sweat & Tears.

Castiglia, who is a guitarist, singer and songwriter, got involved in the blues two decades after Woodstock.

“Eric Clapton got me into the blues in the beginning,” said Castiglia. “I listened to a lot of blues on record. I was fascinated but these were blues songs that were covers. I wanted to find the versions that were the originals.

“Then I bought Muddy Waters’ ‘Hard Again.’ That was the record that really changed it. I was hearing Muddy for the first time on cassette. To me, the songs are what matter — even without production. Music is still really powerful. It’s all about the song and the message.

“It’s because of the old stuff that I’m doing this now. The great thing about the blues is that you never stop learning.”

Castiglia joined the Miami Blues Authority in 1990 and was named the “Best Blues Guitarist in Miami” by the Miami New Times in 1997. Discovered singing by Junior Wells in 1996, Castiglia joined his touring band and worked as Wells’ lead guitarist until the blues legend’s death in 1998.

Castiglia’s first solo album, “Burn,” was self-released in 2004 and followed in 2006 by “The Bittersweet Sessions,” which was also self-released. He then released four albums on BluesLeaf Records — “A Stone’s Throw,” These Are the Days,” “Keepin On,” and “Living the Dream.” Next was a series of four LPs on Ruf Records – “Solid Ground,” “Blues Caravan 2014,” “Big Dog,” and “Up All Night.”

Castiglia’s 11th album was “Masterpiece,” which was released by Gulf Coast Records on May 24, 2019.

“I recorded the album in Mike’s studio in Nederland, Texas,” said Castiglia. “It was very special to be there.

“Mike played bass and drums and I played guitar and sang. It was mostly analog. A lot was done live with Mike on drums and me. I think it has a live feeling. The only thing we overdubbed was the bass.

“It was inspired by events of the previous year. I got connected with a daughter I never knew I had – a daughter and two grandkids.”

When Castiglia’s daughter found him, she provided him with an instant family.

According to Castiglia, “Prior to my daughter finding me, my entire adult life felt incomplete. I never knew why I felt that way. I could never put my finger on it. Then when I discovered my daughter, my heart was suddenly overflowing.

“My daughter finding me and opening up my world to an additional family, including two grandchildren, brought out the deepest material I’ve ever created.”

Family relationships have always fueled blues lyrics and Castiglia is keeping the tradition alive.

“My job as a musician is to keep the groove alive and relevant,” said Castiglia. “That’s why I do it. That’s why my contemporaries do it. I do it because I love it. It’s the reason I live and I exist. It’s the reason that I play this music for a living.”

Video link for Albert Castiglia — https://youtu.be/dV58R7b3WSA.

Video link for “Blood Brothers Tour” video — https://youtu.be/RpN7W9yrPtg.

The show on April 6 in Sellersville will start at 7:30 p.m.

Tickets are $29.50 and $45.

Other upcoming shows at the Sellersville Theater are Marc Broussard on March 31, Corinne Mammana on April 1, Karla Bonoff on April 2, Jimmy Webb on April 3 and Canned Heat on April 4.

Blues will also be on the menu at Jamey’s House of Music (32 South Lansdowne Avenue, Lansdowne, 215-477-9985, www.jameyshouseofmusic.com) this weekend.

On April 1, Jamey’s will feature a powerful blues band from Delaware – the Jimmy Pritchard Band.

On April 2, more blues music will be served up by the Erin Harpe Country Blues Duo.

Every Sunday, Jamey’s presents “SUNDAY BLUES BRUNCH & JAM” featuring the Philly Blues Kings with Maci Miller. Another weekly event at the venue is the “THURSDAY NIGHT JAZZ JAM” featuring the Dave Reiter Trio.

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