Contrary to the Thomas Wolfe novel, you can go home again. Just ask Tommy Castro.
The prolific recording artist returned to his hometown San Jose to record his 15th album since 1994, “Stomping Ground,” which he says will be released in the fall.
“I’ve been reconnecting with the music that I was listening to when I really started getting into playing myself,” Castro said. “That’s when I was coming of age, hanging out and jamming with friends and figuring things out.
“There’s a song on there called “My Old Neighborhood” where I reminisce about what it was like at that time for me as a kid growing up. And we did some covers on this record of some of the artists that influenced me back then.”
Castro said he covered “Further On Down The Road” by Taj Mahal and “Rock Bottom” by the Elvin Bishop Band. Jo Baker sang lead vocals on the 1972 Bishop tune.
When Castro saw Bishop live, he said to himself, “That’s what I want to do.”
“That’s the band probably the most influential band to me and that’s why it’s part of the reason I sound the way I do,” Castro said. “Elvin and I have different styles but one of the things that he did that I always thought was the greatest sound ever is that he combines blues, R&B and soul music.
“That’s the first time I’ve ever seen anybody do that and it just seems so natural and fun. Going to an Elvin Bishop show was the happiest I’ve ever been.”
Castro’s affection for soul no doubt is why his band has had a horn section for most of his career. However, the previous two Tommy Castro and the Painkillers albums do not include horns. For its live shows, the band now only uses horns for its Legendary Rhythm & Blues Revue and performances on the blues cruise.
Castro said he has brought back horns on some of the songs on “Stomping Ground.”
“I’m not against horns,” he said. “It’s just as a regular diet I’m off of the big band with horns.”
Castro will get plenty of home cooking this summer. With the exception of some shows in Kansas City, Chicago and the Midwest, he will perform weekends all around Northern California and spend weekdays at his San Rafael home, just north of San Francisco. After “Stomping Ground” is released, he will tour nationally.
“Stomping Ground,” which is in the mixing process, was recorded at Kid Andersen’s Greaseland Studio in San Jose. It will be released on Alligator Records, his fifth since joining the Chicago label in 2009.
For accolades, Castro’s greatest year was 2010 when he won Blues Music Awards for Blues Male Artist of the Year, Contemporary Blues Album of the Year, B.B. King Entertainer of the Year, and with his band, Band of the Year. His last album, “Method to My Madness,” received a BMA nomination in 2015.
“This is going to be a tough year for me to put a record out because everybody – everybody — put a record out this year,” he said. “It’s going to be tough to stand out this year.
“Coco Montoya’s new record (‘Hard Truth’) is just stellar. He’s got a new one on Alligator and it just kicks ass. It really sounds like classic Coco. It’s the thing about Coca Montoya that everybody always likes: His playing and singing, his style of music. It’s really a good record.”
Chicago’s Ronnie Baker Brooks recently released “Times Have Changed” on the Mascot Label Group.
“Ronnie’s awesome and he spent he spent quite a lot of time working on his latest release,” Castro said. “It’s got some pretty cool special guests on there and Bobby Bland is probably one of his final performances of his life singing on Ronnie’s record and it’s a real cool, very creative effort on Ronnie’s part.”