Albert Castiglia

Up All Night. It’s an apt title for Albert Castiglia’s seventh album: nobody sleeps when this man is in town. After 27 years of house-rocking studio albums and smack-in-the-mouth live shows, the Florida bandleader is the acknowledged master of red-raw, sweat-and-hair blues that gives it to you straight. Now, the visceral riffs and bruised soul of Up All Night make everything else sound like a lullaby. “I’d describe the musical vibe of this new album,” says Castiglia simply, “as heavy.”

Released in 2017 on Ruf Records, Up All Night finds Castiglia in a creative swagger after last year’s acclaimed Big Dog. What wasn’t broke then hasn’t been fixed now, with the bluesman once again recording at Dockside Studios, Louisiana, and capturing a warts-and-all mix alongside producer Mike Zito. “I figured since the Big Dog session went so well there, why change studios?” he reasons. “I’ll probably record there for the rest of my life.”

Dockside might be home-turf, but any notion of a comfort zone was dispelled by an edgy new lineup who pushed their bandleader to the wire. “Putting my new band together was a pivotal moment and this recent incarnation has really upped my game,” says Castiglia. “My drummer, Brian Menendez, is very dynamic and gives me that extra spark. He's along the lines of a Ginger Baker or Mitch Mitchell. Jimmy Pritchard is my bass player and he’s solid as a rock. His tone is fat and he's right on time. When I hear him, I think of Bill Wyman or Calvin ‘Fuzz’ Jones. It’s a power trio with no boundaries or restrictions. It’s a pretty amazing sound to me and it’s reflective in Up All Night.”

Up All Night is what happens when fist-tight chemistry meets a songwriter firing on all cylinders. Flying out of the blocks and bottling ten songs on the first day, Castiglia shook the Dockside walls with the most powerful songs of his career. There’s the stinging Hoodoo On Me. The strutting garage-band vibe and scream-it-back chorus of Three Legged Dog. The punchy call-and-response bar-room brawler that is Knocked Down Loaded. “That song was written with my frequent collaborator, Graham Wood Drout,” says Castiglia, “and it brings me back to when I was a young musician and felt like I was ten feet tall and bulletproof.”

Other high-velocity cuts include 95 South’s travelogue, decorated by the inimitable slide-guitar fairydust of Sonny Landreth (“That’s about having to drive from Washington D.C. to my home in South Florida in the middle of a tropical storm”), while Chase Her Around The House splices an early rock ‘n’ roll vibe with an age-old male need (“It’s about coming home and wanting to devour your significant other after being on the road for a long time”).

He’ll pummel you with the rough stuff, but Castiglia can also shift gears to more contemplative moments, whether that’s the rolling and contented acoustic blues of You Got Me To That Place, or its thematic opposite-man, Unhappy House Of Blues. “That song was co-written with Cyril Neville,” he explains. “Cyril wrote the lyrics but I completely relate to them, because they bring me back to unhappier times when I was a struggling musician and I had no support from who I was with. I think anyone can relate to these tunes.”

This isn’t Castiglia’s first time around. Born on August 12th, 1969, in New York – before moving to Florida aged five – he made his professional debut in 1990 with Miami Blues Authority, but truly hit the international radar when Junior Wells invited him into his solo band for several world tours. “It was an incredible adventure,” recalls Castiglia. “Ever since I was a kid, I wanted to be a Chicago bluesman. Junior opened the door for me to do that. He recorded his last studio album, Come On In This House, at Dockside. What a sign!”

The gig was a shop-window, and though Wells died in 1998, there was no stopping Castiglia, whether he was joining the great Atlanta vocalist Sandra Hall for national tours in the late-’90s, or holding his own in onstage jams with everyone from Pinetop Perkins to John Primer. Nobody’s sideman, his own burgeoning solo career began with 2002’s Burn, followed up by 2006’s A Stone’s Throw, 2010’s Keepin On and 2012’s Living The Dream. In 2014, Ruf debut Solid Ground was declared “smouldering and intense” by The Blues Magazine, while last year’s Big Dog was the thrilling culmination of a lifetime’s craft, championed by Blues Blast’s Kim Derr as “the best album I’ve listened to this year”.

That back catalogue is a high bar, but Up All Night raises it, defying you to sleep until you’ve worn out its 11 magnetic tracks. “You’ll rock out and dance like nobody’s watching,” concludes Albert. “If you’re sad, this record will lift you up. If you’re already happy, this album will make you happier. You can listen to this album anywhere, anytime…”

Not every blues artist can create a cohesive sound in the genre by weaving in a diversity of other influences, but guitarist and vocalist JP Soars is obviously not just any blues artist. A 2009 winner of the International Blues Challenge in Memphis, TN with his band the Red Hots (and the festival's Albert King Award winner as best guitarist to boot), the Arkansas native toured extensively through the United States, Canada, South America and Europe with metal bands after relocating to South Florida, and is one of the few guitarists also capable of adding nuances of his long-standing, Django Reinhardt-inspired "Gypsy jazz" side project.

It all coalesces on Soars' upcoming fourth CD, Southbound I-95, recorded at the familiar Studio 13 in Fort Lauderdale, FL. Dotted with special guests, its sessions reveal hints of soul, R&B, surf, reggae, roots and country music on both Soars originals and a sprinkling of surprising covers -- all of which enhance and modernize, rather than take away from, the disc's traditional blues undercurrent.

"I like T-Bone Walker, Wes Montgomery, Django Reinhardt, Pete Fountain, Louis Armstrong, Guitar Slim, Muddy Waters, and Howlin' Wolf," Soars says. "But at the same time, I also love Willie Nelson, George Jones, Tito Puente, Black Sabbath, and old Metallica. If it moves me, I dig it."

JP Soars

Soars got bitten by the blues bug via a legendary source in 1988, when he won a guitar and two tickets in a raffle to see B.B. King in concert. Meeting the iconic guitarist and singer further enhanced the young musician's quest to learn more about the timeless power of the music. Soars started his blues recording career a decade ago with the 2008 release Back of My Mind, followed by More Bees With Honey (2011) and Full Moon Night in Memphis (2014). Collectively, his catalog has received extensive airplay on the XM Radio programs of Little Steven ("Underground Garage") and B.B. King ("Bluesville"); Top 50 status on the "Living Blues" charts, Blues Music Award nominations for "Best Contemporary Male Blues Artist of the Year," and "Best Blues CD" and "Album of the Year" accolades from the Palm Beach Post.

A gritty and expressive vocalist, Soars elicits signature tones from hollow-body guitars, plus a home-made two-string cigar box guitar for his incendiary slide guitar playing. All of which has helped him earn dates at the Baltic Sea Festival in Germany, the Liberation Day Festival in Holland, and other shows in France, Switzerland, Luxembourg, Austria, and Colombia as well as road work throughout the United States and Canada.

In the past two years, Soars and the Red Hots have also played the Peer Blues Festival in Belgium, sharing the stage with Buddy Guy, Joe Bonamassa, Brian Setzer, and Larry Graham, and the Mississippi Delta Blues Festival in Caxias do Sul, Brazil before 10,000 people. After being discovered by the Brazilian festival's presenter while playing with his "Gypsy jazz" project at a South Florida venue, Soars and company played the side stage in that format, then headlined the main stage with full blues intensity at its ninth annual event.

For the past several years, Soars has additionally been part of the regional all-star blues act Southern Hospitality. Also featuring Tampa vocalist/guitarist Damon Fowler and Memphis vocalist/keyboardist Victor Wainwright, plus Red Hots drummer Chris Peet and Fowler's bassist Matt Walker, the Blind Pig recording artists earned a Blues Blast Award for "Best New Artist Debut Release" for their 2013 CD Easy Livin,' and have toured worldwide in-between the three bandleaders' own schedules. Southern Hospitality appears with a host of international blues icons on the Legendary Rhythm & Blues Cruise sailing out of Fort Lauderdale, FL in February.

Soars prides himself with having one of the tightest bands on the scene, with Red Hots bassist Cleveland Frederick and longtime drummer Chris Peet. The trio has extensive touring scheduled through the United States and Europe during the first half of 2018, in addition to appearances by popular demand at blues venues on both coastlines of South Florida, all in support of Southbound I-95. Both his all-star band and new Red Hots CD may have names framed in southern trajectory, but Soars' career is clearly on a northward upswing.

Famous Frank Ward

Famous Frank Ward is one of the premier band leader/blues musicians in the talent rich South Florida area. His band The Nucklebusters has performed at every major blues club and festival since 1988. Frank is a respected bandleader, guitarist, singer, songwriter and producer.

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