Music News & Reviews

Bluesman Tommy Castro returns to Fulton 55

Over the course of two albums, Tommy Castro has reinvented his sound.

For 2013’s “The Devil You Know,” the Bay Area singer-guitarist abandoned the brassy big-band blues he played in the 1990s. He pared down his band, focusing on his songwriting and guitar work, and bringing in contemporaries such as Joe Bonamassa, Tab Benoit and harmonica player Magic Dick to do guest spots. The result was an album of well-produced, if stripped-down, guitar-driven blues rock that was Blues Blast Music’s best blues rock album for the year.

“The last one was a major art project,” says Castro, the 2010 Blues Foundation’s B.B. King Entertainer of the Year.

On “Method to My Madness,” the guitar player kept things even more straightforward.

“There’s no special guest, no special effects. We went at this as organically as possible,” he says.

We have a new record out. That’s the big news.

Tommy Castro

The resulting 10 songs, released on Alligator Records last year, were recorded as close to live as possible. Castro played one guitar for most of the album, recorded out of one amp.

Fresnans will get a chance to hear the result when Castro plays Friday, Feb. 5 at Fulton 55 with his band The Painkillers. Fresno’s John Clifton Blues Band opens the show.

“Method to My Madness” represents what the band sounds like on stage in concerts.

It also represents the real Castro.

This is music that comes of out him naturally, he says, when he is just playing the blues, “without trying to be so creative.”

For the album, Castro chose to bring in new members for his backing band. He recruited keyboard player Mike Emerson (who’s played with Elvin Bishop, Carlene Carter and Percy Sledge) and drummer Bowen Brown (who did a six-year stint with John Lee Hooker) to fill out the band, which includes his longtime bassist Randy McDonald.

It’s the same group of musicians backing him up on tour.

That makes for a simple transition from studio to stage, Castro says.

“It’s easy to recreate what we did on the record.”

Joshua Tehee: 559-441-6479, @joshuatehee

Tommy Castro and the Painkillers

  • 7 p.m. Friday, Feb. 5
  • 875 Divisadero St.
  • $20-$25
  • 559-412-7400,