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ENTERTAINMENT Tommy Castro to sing the blues at The Cellar



Published: Thu, February 3, 2005 @ 12:00 a.m.



Blues artist has a blue-collar work ethic and a new CD.

On the blues circuit, Tommy Castro is a self-made man.

Hard working and diligent, this San Jose, Calif., musician has released over a handful of albums since his solo debut 12 years ago. It is such care and handling of his career that explains why it took four years to follow-up his 2001 studio album "Guilty of Love." Like a seasoned and talented contractor, who one day brings his trade skills back home to create his own dream house, this slow blues maestro of sorts took his time with his latest batch of originals for new disc "Soul Shaker." More importantly, it shows.

"After all of these years, I've made quite a few records already and going through this process, you're always learning something," said Castro calling from a tour stop in Atlanta, Georgia. "I feel like I've had a chance to mature a little bit over the years, and this is the best batch of songs put together on a record so far."

'Next big thing'

With his 1993 debut "No Foolin,'" Castro was soon thrust into the "Next Big Thing" category of blues musicians that have flirted with mainstream success. However, for this slide guitarist, the spotlight has yet to manifest itself in People magazine success. But he doesn't seem worried. If there is a common denominator throughout Castro's career, it's his undeniable blue-collar work ethic that results in down-and-dirty tracks and a solid fan base, which appreciates his effort and commitment.

"It's because we're down there in the trenches with everybody else," Castro said. "We're out there, doing this the hard way. We spend 250 dates out there on the road. We're not rock stars. We like to think that we work as hard as the next person and we can relate to just the way things are in our culture right now. It's geared up so everybody really has to work hard and work a lot just to stay even."

There is something to be said for the blues player who survives under the radar and flourishes for steadfast audiences when onstage night after night.

"I don't feel like we're stars by any stretch," said Castro. "I don't feel like we're the next big blues star. I don't think we're a household name. The average person who doesn't listen to this kind of music, probably doesn't know who the hell we are. And that doesn't really matter to us. We have the people who really want to be there in our corner."

Local help

Two people who Castro feels are definitely in his corner are disc jockeys Casey Malone and Cornel Bogdan, heard locally on Boardman radio station WNCD-FM 93.3 The Wolf. The guitarist said the duo, which hosts the popular "Tangled up in Blues" program heard every Sunday night, has given him plenty of airtime over the years.

"They kind of put us on the map in that part of the country," Castro said. "Nobody knew who we were in Youngstown, Ohio, at one time, and now, everybody kind of knows who we are in that part of the state."

With that in mind, fans have been waiting a long time for Castro to bring his "Soul Shaker" tour through the Buckeye State. But the wait is over as this rock, blues and Memphis soul musician pulls into town for a show Wednesday at The Cellar. This isn't just an average gig for Castro, who feels as though he's coming back to family and friends for a special night of music.

"It's a great place to see a show," Castro said. "It's funky, and we like that in a blues kind of a venue. It's a blast, the place rocks and the crowd is great."




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