March 27, 2017
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Quick Spins: Great new stuff from Tommy Castro and Squeeze




Tommy Castro & The Painkillers, “Method to My Madness” (Alligator)

Though he’s a long way from being a household name, Tommy Castro has been in the blues trenches for decades. It’s actually a bit unfair to even label him as a blues artist, as his music incorporates elements of soul, R&B, gospel and traditional rock ’n’ roll. Castro’s efforts have won him blues awards and opening honors for the likes of B.B. King.

On his latest Alligator release, Castro unleashes 12 tuneful gems, bristling with his trademark husky voice and searing Fender Stratocaster. From the hopeful anthem “Common Ground” to the funkified “Method to My Madness,” all bases are covered.

While Castro may be the lead instrumentalist in the band, I would be remiss if I didn’t mention his secret weapon, keyboardist Michael Emerson. Emerson’s B3 organ is the glue of the outfit, providing melodic counterpoint and musical hooks that are the gravy on The Painkillers’ meat and potatoes. Repeated listenings are guaranteed.

Note: Castro & The Painkillers are performing Saturday (Nov. 21) at Shank Hall in Milwaukee, 1434 N. Farwell Ave. Showtime is 8 p.m.; admission is $20. 414-276-7288.

Squeeze, “From the Cradle to the Grave” (Virgin/EMI), $14.99

Though it might seem that stalwart English popsters Squeeze have only recently reunited, the band has actually been back in operation since 2007, when they got together to promote the reissue of their entire back catalog. Principal songwriters Chris Difford and Glen Tilbrook were joined by fellow founding member and bassist John Bentley.

The rest of the band was fleshed out with members of Tilbrook’s solo band, drummer Simon Hanson and keyboardist Stephen Large.

As songwriters, Difford and Tilbrook have always mixed nearly equals parts of the Beatles and Motown. Here, though Tilbrook’s vocals often still sound eerily like McCartney, the Motown side of their split personality is given much freer range. The title tune bounces along with a snappy “You Can’t Hurry Love” vibe, and shades of Smokey Robinson are felt all throughout “Happy Days.”

It’s obvious a lot of love and care went into the making of “Cradle to the Grave.” Difford and Tilbrook made references to it as early as 2008, so you know they did everything they could to get these songs right. I’m pleasantly surprised to say they have succeeded masterfully. Very highly recommended.

New releases

Justin Bieber/Purpose (Def Jam)

Trans-Siberian Orchestra/Letters from the Labyrinth (Lava)

Jeff Lynne’s ELO/Alone in the Universe (Columbia)

One Direction/Made in the A.M. (Syco)

Neil Young/Bluenote Cafe’ (Warner Bros.)

Train/Christmas in Tahoe (Universal Music Group)

Chris Isaak/First Comes the Night (Vanguard)

Kylie Minogue/Kylie Christmas (Warner)

Kurt Cobain/The Home Recordings (UMe)

CDs provided by CD-DVD-Games-Warehouse,

3717 80th St., Kenosha, 262-942-9400.


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