Tommy Castro – The Devil You Know (2014)

There’s a different attitude surrounding these recordings, which find Tommy Castro collaborating with a tough new group of blues-rock loving youngsters. The Devil You Know makes the point early with its scalding title track, as Castro barks over his own abrupt and nasty little guitar groove — a hint as to where his explosive new band the Painkillers want to take things.

Even tracks like the subsequent “Second Mind,” which starts with a loping cadence powered along by original Castro Band bassist Randy McDonald, soon catch another gear — and they proceed to rattle along like a classic muscle car running with a serrated muffler: They are strong, they are a little scary and they are loud as hell.

In fact, played at an improper volume, The Devil You Know — due January 21, 2014, via Alligator — could bring down buildings. And, believe me, I tried: “Center of Attention” stomps and sways, with Castro sounding at once heartbroken and vengeful. “When I Cross The Mississippi,” featuring a furious rhythm retort from Painkillers drummer Byron Cage, gives Castro a chance to bellow with righteous passion. Their dead-on cover of “Keep On Smilin,’” the Wet Willie favorite, gurgles along behind a smart organ and his vocal’s beat-up determination. “Greedy” closes things out with a final white-knuckled joyride.

Along the way, Castro — who’s been knocking around since late 1980s — also shares the session with Marcia Ball and the Holmes Brothers, both label mates, as well as Joe Bonamassa, Tab Benoit and Magic Dick of J.J. Geils fame, among others. But it’s the Painkillers, guys who clearly have taken Castro back to his garage-band roots, who most often this goose this project along. They’ve got Castro flooring it again, making The Devil You Know a very fun ride.

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Nick DeRiso

Nick DeRiso has also explored music for publications like USA Today, Gannett News Service, All About Jazz and Popdose for nearly 30 years. Honored as newspaper columnist of the year five times by the Associated Press, Louisiana Press Association and Louisiana Sports Writers Association, he oversaw a daily section that was named Top 10 in the nation by the AP in 2006. Contact him at nderiso@somethingelsereviews.com.