Article: Dana Weigel
Photographer: Matt Munsell
ST. LOUIS, MO – Tommy Castro and the Painkillers brought the blues to the Old Rock House Thursday Night. The band played favorites from their prior albums along with material from their latest release, Method to My Madness. There wasn’t a still seat in the house once the band took the stage. Tommy put on another spectacular vocal performance drawing the audience in to the life story of each and every tune. Method to My Madness is a return to the bands’ live playing roots. No special guests, just Tommy on vocals and guitar, Randy McDonald on Bass, Mike Emerson on Keys and Bowen Brown on the Drums. You could definitely say the Painkillers will cure what ails you as they rock with soul and take you to another place for a time. The last man on the bus is Jordan Harman who opens for the band with an acoustic performance each show on this leg of the tour. Jordache, (aka Jordan Harman) as he is lovingly referred to by the Castro Band, delivered an impressive vocal performance with handwritten material and a tribute to Prince. Jordan sang the hit song Cream in honor of the recently departed artist and won over the crowd.
Tommy has been in the business for years and picked up his first guitar as soon as he hit the ripe old age of 10. His brother was his initial inspiration to perform. Watching the older boys play songs from the radio in his parents basement was too cool not to try out himself. He started picking his brothers guitars, eventually received one of his own as a gift and the rest as they say is history. Tommy practiced at home, playing along to the radio until he began playing in his first band, Night Cry as a youth.
While he was starting out on his musical journey, Tommy and his brother also ran their own business for a time in the San Jose, CA area. They had a shop together that purchased and installed window dressings for homes and businesses in the area. The job paid pretty well and it was a great job for an aspiring musician. Tommy managed himself in the business which afforded the opportunity to work around music gigs and build his reputation in the area as a blues and soul artist. He continued with a foot in both businesses early in his career until he reached the crossroads and went all in on a music career.
Tommy certainly made the right call. Early in his career he played with a variety of blues and soul bands. The scene was a party in every club at the time and Tommy was able to play every night on the blues scene once he moved to the big city. Gaining momentum as an artist, Tommy was picked up in the 80’s by the Dynatones as a guitarist and sometime vocalist which put him on a continuous show circuit in the San Francisco Bay Area along with Randy McDonald, current Tour Manager and Bassist for the Painkillers.
In 1991 Tommy knew he had more to offer as a musician and established the Tommy Castro Band. The Tommy Castro Band featured Tommy of course as lead vocalist and guitarist and included a variety of musicians and instruments to include horns as the band evolved. Tommy recently stripped the band back down to a four man roots operation in 2011, creating the Painkillers.
Tommy has written much of his own material over the years, producing over a dozen records and winning multiple awards. He has played with the best of the best, opening for the likes of BB King and winning the coveted BB King Entertainer of the Year award twice. His current album, produced for the first time by Tommy himself, continues his tradition of Blues that makes you want to get up and dance, play, sing. Method to My Madness, released in October 2015, is raw with four men on stage playing it live from the heart. The album reflects the live performance vibe and is ‘just real’, to quote Tommy.
The live show was 100% real in St. Louis. Mike danced across the keys, Randy was a beast on bass and Bowen kept the crowd rolling on drums. Tommy on guitar is hard to beat until you hear him sing. You wouldn’t find a still toe in the house once Castro started his first soulful lyric. The first set focused on tracks from Method to My Madness and could be described as rock, blues and soul with intensity. Catchy lyrics to songs like Common Ground and Ride make you want to put the record on repeat. Speaking of records, Method to My Madness is available on blue vinyl. Tommy showed off a copy of the album on stage and mentioned that blue sounds the best if you’ve never experienced it for yourself. In chatting with Jordan between sets, he said that’s no bull, they have to clean the press to make them blue which makes the albums higher quality. So there you have it, get yourself a unique high quality blue vinyl, a CD, a download or catch them live, Tommy Castro and the Painkillers will blow you away with their new album Method to My Madness. And check out Jordan Harman while you are at it, this acoustic performer is going places and will be on tour with Castro through May 3rd.