Albert Castiglia’s 2012 release, Living The Dream, was a revelation. The album was well played, very well received, and Castiglia came out swinging. Overall, it was a very high energy set, and a high octane performance. Castiglia is back again with a truly marvelous album, Solid Ground, on Ruf Records. There is a distinctly different flavor to Solid Ground. For one thing, things seem more focused, more disciplined, and less frenetic. It’s not that Castiglia doesn’t tear things up with exceptional playing here; he does. The material itself is more varied in tone, and temperament. The writing and playing is more mature, the musicians are tighter as a unit, and Castiglia’s growth as a player is apparent. Now mind you, Living The Dream was an excellent album! Solid Ground is a whole different animal. Where the former chased down dinner like a Cheetah, the later saunters and lays back until the time is right. This change in approach works really well for Castiglia and company.
At just over an hour, the fourteen tracks on Solid Ground give you plenty of sonic pleasure to indulge in. Dave Gross has done an awesome job with recording, production, and especially the mix, which adds a whole textural dimension to the album that otherwise might have been lost. Core personnel here are Albert Castiglia – guitar, vocals, Matt Schuler – electric bass, Jeremy Baum – keyboards, and Bob Ansel on drums. Guests include Dave Gross on guitar, percussion, upright bass, mandolin, and vocals; Lou Bevere – guitar and vocals, and Debbie Davies on guitar.
While Solid Ground will hold your attention all the way through, there were tracks that we especially enjoyed including “Keep You Around Too Long,” which will have you thinking you are back in Texas, where blues has that special Texas edge to it. There’s a very funky reworking of Johnny Oden’s “Going Down Slow” that is particularly satisfying, and “Celebration” really shines with its melodic, easy feeling, and perfectly suited vocal performance. For an acoustic oriented song, “Hard Time” has a modern delta feel with a rock edge to it. The band’s rendering of the Rolling Stones classic, “Sway,” is simply magnificent. We also enjoyed “Little Havana Blues (Arroz Con Mango)” for its Latin flavor, and really great groove laid down by the band which Castiglia has a blast playing over, under, and around. A very smooth, savvy, well played cut.
Solid Ground is more nuanced, subtle playing than its predecessor, and that understated execution really serves the music well. Castiglia and company have given us an engaging performance, and this album is a real winner. Check it out soon!