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VCV Tommy Castro – “Definition of Insanity”

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2010 Blues Music AwardsI had a great conversation tonight with fellow Blogcritics editor Donald Gibson about authenticity in the blues, it's degree of importance in the idiom, where authenticity is born, and who can lay claim to it, which is something I've contemplated throughout my journey through the blues. It's good to take stock of one's thoughts, beliefs, philosophies, and ideals. As we kicked around different notions, I realized at one time I had a rigid definition not only of what the blues is but what a bluesman or blueswoman is and I was reminded tonight my definition was flawed and has come along way.

Tommy Castro's “Definition of Insanity” is a good example. I don't know that I could put my previous definition into words but I can tell you this: it wasn't broad enough to include a baby boomer from San Jose, CA and that's just silly. I still don't know that I could give a proper definition of the blues, which is why I've deferred to something I read from one of the great authorities and pilgrims of the blues, David “Honeyboy” Edwards. His definition is both pure and broad, making the blues a moving target and a living organism.

Castro's “Definition of Insanity” soaks up influences and sounds that extend well beyond the obvious and traditional. There is a Latin flavor in the horn arrangement, soaking up some of Castro's Californian roots. Even his Stratocaster takes on a bit of Latin tone, if you will, through its sonic similarities with the playing and feel of the great Carlos Santana. The rhythmic cadence is groove rather than shuffle and doesn't fall into one of the obvious 12-bar patterns.

This is a contemporary rendering and while it has mainstream markers, the guitar leads shriek with intense emotion. The sounds are bright and the production shiny but Castro commands his guitar and it obeys, giving off enough heat to melt metal and that's how he incorporates the heritage of the blues into “Definition of Insanity.” It's not a twin and may not even sound like a cousin to the Delta, Chicago, St. Louis, Texas, or any of the other points on the Blues Trail, but it's a DNA match.

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About Josh Hathaway

  • Much of blues rock and even other blues subgenres take on an artful flair that leaves you wondering how “pure” the music is. But then, as you point out, blues is flavored by many influences. There’s always been that infusion of different beats and sounds and that’s what makes it so dynamic.

    Remind me to tell you the story sometime about blues fightin’ words. You’ll appreciate that.

  • P.S. Tommy Castro — two shows. Free. Vegas. March 4. Don’t you wish you lived there too?