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Hard Believer

Hard Believer

by Tommy Castro Tommy Castro
Hard Believer

Hard Believer

by Tommy Castro Tommy Castro


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You might think that Castro's first album recorded for mighty blues indie Alligator -- and twelfth overall -- would mark a departure for this longtime rocking soulman. Despite a fuller sound, fleshed out with Lenny Castro's percussion and boosted by an ever-present horn section led by longtime cohort Keith Crossan, this is another typically solid effort from the singer/guitarist. Perhaps it's unfair to expect that Castro would somehow break free of, expand, or alter the blue-collar persona he has cultivated over his solo career as he shifts to a higher-profile label affiliation. Veteran producer/musician John Porter returns to join Castro's strong, husky vocals -- a cross between Delbert McClinton, James Brown, and Bob Seger -- to a rather slick, radio-friendly approach that buffs off the frontman's natural grit, arguably overly so. Every track is tweaked to perfection with keyboards and brass charts, leaving little to chance or room for the music to breathe. It's a marked change from Castro's anything-goes concerts where the songs are tightly rehearsed, yet open for improvisation. Studio sets are naturally more sterile, but there remains a nagging feeling that this is too studied for his style of soulful rock. That's abundantly clear on his cover of the Wilson Pickett chestnut "Ninety-Nine and One Half," a natural song for his gutsy vocals but performed in a version that pales next to Pickett's spine-tingling original. Still, when the singer dives into the slow blues of "Backup Plan" all the pieces fit, and Castro's John Fogerty-styled vocals rip into the tune with the kind of aggression generally missing from the musical backing. Covers of Bob Dylan's "Gotta Serve Somebody" and the Righteous Brothers' rollicking "My Babe" bring out the inherent Memphis R&B grease of the former and the churchy fun of the latter without messing with the original concepts. "Trimmin' Fat" is a fun, swampy, party-rocking new tune that tries too hard to force a concert singalong of its title. Much better is Allen Toussaint's "Victims of the Darkness," a 1972 gem that benefits from Castro's sympathetic reading. Blues lovers hope the journeyman performer will someday break into the mainstream, and perhaps albums like this one will hasten that. But Hard Believer doesn't capture Castro's powerful concert persona, and anyone that has experienced his live show can't help but be slightly let down by this well-crafted, professionally recorded and produced, if somewhat disappointing release.

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Product Details

Release Date: 08/11/2009
Label: Alligator Records
UPC: 0014551493129
catalogNumber: 4931
Rank: 36958


  1. Definition of Insanity
  2. It Is What It Is
  3. Hard Believer
  4. Monkey's Paradise
  5. Ninety-Nine and One Half
  6. Backup Plan
  7. Gotta Serve Somebody
  8. Trimmin' Fat
  9. Make It Back to Memphis
  10. Victims of the Darkness
  11. My Babe
  12. The Trouble with Soul

Album Credits

Performance Credits

Tommy Castro   Primary Artist,Guitar,Vocals
Lenny Castro   Percussion
Keith Crossan   Baritone Saxophone,Tenor Saxophone,Background Vocals
Tom Poole   Trumpet,Flugelhorn
John Porter   Rhythm Guitar,Slide Guitar
Amber Swan Morris   Background Vocals
Ronnie Smith   Drums
Scott Sutherland   Bass
Tony Stead   Keyboards
Tal Morris   Rhythm Guitar
Ronnie Smith   Drums
Scott Sutherland   Bass
Tom Poole   Trumpet,Flugelhorn
Amber Morris   Background Vocals

Technical Credits

Bob Dylan   Composer
Bonnie Hayes   Producer,Engineer,Vocal Producer
Stephen Bruton   Composer
Keith Crossan   Horn Arrangements
Tom Poole   Horn Arrangements
John Porter   Producer,Engineer
Jeff Silbar   Composer
Jeff Big Dad Turmes   Composer
Amber Swan Morris   Vocal Producer
Ari Rios   Producer,Engineer,Vocal Producer
Michael Trossman   Logo
John "00" Fleming   Composer
Castro   Composer
Tal Morris   Producer
Steve Spirn   Repair

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