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The blues came to town, featuring Tommy Castro and special guest Deanna Bogart

Tommy Castro and Deanna Bogart
Photos by Anita Schlank (used with permission)

The name of Alligator recording artist Tommy Castro’s latest album is A Bluesman Comes To Town, and last night (April 5) he was the bluesman who rolled into Richmond’s Tin Pan with his group The Painkillers and special guest Deanna Bogart. Along with celebrating the release of this new album (in both disc format and in beautiful coke bottle green vinyl), Castro and Company were celebrating their 30th Anniversary playing the blues by bringing back some of their older songs with the help of Bogart on saxophone.

Despite Castro playing on a Tuesday night, the audience was packed with only a few seats remaining open way in the back and many in the crowd greeting each other as they were old friends. Some had traveled down from Northern Virginia to see Bogart who has been a Mid-Atlantic favorite since her early days with the infamous Root Boy Slim.

Castro opened the show backed by The Painkillers, a tight trio consisting of longtime bass player Randy McDonald, drummer Bowen Brown, and keyboardist Mike Emerson, as they launched into a spirited version of Calling San Francisco. Castro showed he was in rare form by delivering the first of many blistering guitar breaks.

From there the band moved into an extended version of Leaving Trunk before slowing things down with the emotional Blues Prisoner.

Castro didn’t just go from song to song, he took a few moments in between to work the audience as more than a few were sending up requests for old favorites. It was obvious that he had built up quite a following in the previous 30 years of being on the road.

Next up were a couple of songs from the new album, You Got A Lot and the title track, A Bluesman Comes To Town before changing guitars so he could play a little slide on an electric version of Freight Train. He switched guitars again as Deanna Bogart came up on the stage to join the band on sax with the song Hustle from the new album.

After that, Castro and Company reverted to being Bogart’s band as she put down her sax and stepped behind her piano. Yes, she’s a triple threat: sax, piano, and vocals. After teasing a couple of runs, Bogart ripped into a solid boogie number, Beat Me Daddy, Eight To The Bar. This got more than a few members of the audience up on their feet and moving as best they could in the tight space.

For her next song, Bogart played Don’t Be Long and got into an extended keyboard battle with Emerson that had the crowd cheering at every exchange and ended in the first standing ovation of the night. She ended her set with the humorous (but sadly truthful) number Still The Girl In The Band.

It would be difficult to follow such a rousing segment, so they took a short break to hit the merch table (where I scored three Deanna Bogart CDs I didn’t have) and greet the crowd. With Bogart playing sax, they quickly returned with Like An Angel and Soul Shake before playing a request for Big Sister’s Radio. Without pausing they then went into a lengthy version of James Brown’s Get On Up (Sex Machine).

The evening was drawing to a close but Castro, Bogart and Company still had a lot to give with Something Is Wrong With My Baby, followed by their version of Can’t Get Next To You to another standing ovation. The last two songs of the night were Nasty Habits and they closed with Right As Rain and left to another standing ovation.

This was a bittersweet show as it was Bogart’s last for a while. She is going on her own tour but will be joining back up with Castro for some West Coast dates. It was good timing to have her stay through this leg so that so many of her local fans could catch her before she heads out.

When either, or both, of these blues artists come your way, be sure to get your tickets early. You won’t want to miss their high energy, personal show. And while you’re there, pick up those CDs or vinyl you don’t have in your collection. They also make great gifts come the holidays.

Note: We should disclose that tickets to Tommy Castro's performance were provided by Alligator Records.

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