On Stage: Albert Castiglia was born under a good sign

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By Denny Dyroff, Entertainment Editor, The Times

Albert Castiglia

Over the next few days, Kennett Flash (102 Sycamore Alley, Kennett Square, 484-732-8295, http://www.kennettflash.org) is presenting a series of shows that will please a wide variety of music tastes – blues, western swing, classic rock tribute, singer/songwriter and indie pop.

It starts on July 25 with modern bluesman Albert Castiglia.

“Born Under a Bad Sign” is one of bluesman Albert King’s most famous songs – a blues classic that was written by a pair of Stax Records artists…R&B singer William Bell and bandleader Booker T. Jones (of Booker T. & the M.G.’s).

Castiglia, on the other hand, was “Born Under A Good Sign.”

Castiglia was born on August 12, 1969 when the planets were getting in cosmic alignment to welcome the hundreds of thousands of music fans who had already begun their journey to New York State to attend “Woodstock Music & Art Fair: An Aquarian Exposition.”

A lot of blues acts performed live during those three historic days including the Paul Butterfield Blues Band, Johnny Winter, Keef Hartley Band, and Canned Heat along with blues-influenced rock bands such as the Jimi Hendrix Experience, Mountain, Ten Years After and Blood, Sweat & Tears.

Castiglia, who is a guitarist, singer and songwriter, got involved in the blues two decades after Woodstock.

“Eric Clapton got me into the blues in the beginning,” said Castiglia, during a recent phone interview from his home in Fort Lauderdale, Florida.

“I listened to a lot of blues on record. I was fascinated but these were blues songs that were covers. I wanted to find the versions that were the originals.

“Then I bought Muddy Waters’ ‘Hard Again.’ That was the record that really changed it. I was hearing Muddy for the first time on cassette. To me, the songs are what matter — even without production. Music is still really powerful. It’s all about the song and the message.

“It’s because of the old stuff that I’m doing this now. The great thing about the blues is that you never stop learning.”

Castiglia joined the Miami Blues Authority in 1990 and was named the “Best Blues Guitarist in Miami” by the Miami New Times in 1997. Discovered singing by Junior Wells in 1996, Castiglia joined his touring band and worked as Wells’ lead guitarist until the blues legend’s death in 1998.

Castiglia’s first solo album, “Burn,” was self-released in 2004 and followed in 2006 by “The Bittersweet Sessions,” which was also self-released. He then released four albums on BluesLeaf Records — “A Stone’s Throw,” These Are the Days,” “Keepin On,” and “Living the Dream.” Next was a series of four LPs on Ruf Records – “Solid Ground,” “Blues Caravan 2014,” “Big Dog,” and “Up All Night.”

Castiglia’s 11th and most recent album is “Masterpiece,” which was released by Gulf Coast Records on May 24, 2019. The album was co-produced by longtime friend and colleague Mike Zito, and released on Zito’s own label, Gulf Coast Records.

“I recorded the album in Mike Zito’s studio in Nederland, Texas,” said Castiglia. “It was very special to be there.

“Mike played bass and drums and I played guitar and sang. It was mostly analog. A lot was done live with Mike on drums and me. I think it has a live feeling. The only thing we overdubbed was the bass.

“It was inspired by events of the previous year. I got connected with a daughter I never knew I had – a daughter and two grandkids.”

When Castiglia’s daughter found him, she provided him with an instant family.

According to Castiglia, “Prior to my daughter finding me, my entire adult life felt incomplete. I never knew why I felt that way. I could never put my finger on it. Then when I discovered my daughter, my heart was suddenly overflowing.

“My daughter finding me and opening up my world to an additional family, including two grandchildren, brought out the deepest material I’ve ever created.”

Family relationships have always fueled blues lyrics and Castiglia is keeping the tradition alive.

“My job as a musician is to keep the groove alive and relevant,” said Castiglia. “That’s why I do it. That’s why my contemporaries do it. I do it because I love it. It’s the reason I live and I exist. It’s the reason that I play this music for a living.”

Video link for Albert Castiglia – https://youtu.be/PUWApybHQ9U.

The show at Kennett Flash will start at 8 p.m. Tickets are $15.

Every year, it seems the entertainment world adds a few new “Hot Clubs.” The constantly growing list includes the Hot Club of Detroit, Hot Club Philly, Hot Club of San Francisco and even Hot Club de Paris.

Fortunately, these “Hot Clubs” are not strip clubs with scantily clad dancers but rather a collection of unrelated swing jazz bands that have been influenced by gypsy guitar master Django Reinhardt and his band Le Quintet du Hot Club de France.

Hot Club of Cowtown

One of the most interesting Hot Club bands in America is headed to Chester County this week. On July 26, Kennett Flash will host a concert by Hot Club of Cowtown. The band’s music, which features three-part harmonies, is a blend of western swing music and hot gypsy jazz music.

Hot Club of Cowtown is a multiple Ameripolitan Music Award winner, inductee of the Texas Western Swing Hall of Fame, and was awarded Best Music Group by True West Magazine in 2012. The band has appeared on NPR’s Mountain Stage, World Café, and All Things Considered, as well as Sirius Radio and BBC Live.

Whit Smith, the band’s dexterous guitarist, embodies the spirit of early jazz players like Charlie Christian in both his vintage gear and his high-flying fretwork. Upright bass player Jake Erwin is a rhythm powerhouse who keeps the beat with determination and gusto, slapping that bass like it owes him money. Elana James rounds out the trio with sweet, inviting vocals and the astounding fiddle playing that leaves audiences reeling.

“Whit and I met in 1994 and have been making music together ever since,” said James, during a previous phone interview. “Our first record ‘Swinging Stampede’ came out a few years later.

“We’ve been making music for more than 20 years. I’m proud of that because there aren’t many bands that stay together that long — except ones that have had Number One hits like the Rolling Stones.

“We chose our name because Whit was really into Django Reinhardt and Stephane Grappelli and that was the music we began playing. And, Cowtown was a reference to our other influences with western swing music.”

From 1998-2005, the Hot Club of Cowtown recorded five albums that were released on the California-based HighTone Records label. In 2005, the group disbanded. The trio came back together in 2008 and has been going strong ever since.

“We were on HighTone and they wanted an album a year,” said James. “And, they wanted a lot of originals because they owned part of the publishing. Eventually, we realized that this band isn’t a part of that culture.”

Once reunited, the band began performing and recording in a style that was a lively blend of gypsy jazz and western swing. Since re-forming, the Hot Club of Cowtown has released three albums that have found a good balance between classics and originals.

“There aren’t many bands touring with our kind of music,” said James. “We think of it as 1930s punk rock. What makes this band unique is the live show aspect of it. We have a lot of fun when we play. Audiences see this and they have a lot of fun too.”

The Hot Club of Cowtown just finished making its 11th album — a new collection of original compositions along with a few inspired standards. The album, which is titled “Wild Kingdom,” will be released on September 13, 2019.

Video link for Hot Club of Cowtown – https://youtu.be/I2hsYWJ1YB8

The show at Kennett Flash will start at 8 p.m. Tickets are $25.

Other upcoming shows at Kennett Flash are “CHICAGO 9 – A Tribute to Chicago” on July 27 and “New Summer Sounds Music Series” featuring Felicia Berrier, Off-Color and CHVNCE on July 30.

Felicia Berrier

Felicia Berrier is a 16-year-old singer, songwriter, musician, producer, and performer from Kennett Square. She is a student at PA Leadership Charter School (PALCS), where she attends the Center for Performing and Fine Arts (CPFA) and the University Scholars Program (USP).

Berrier has been actively writing music since 2016 and released her first single “Figure It Out” in May 2017. Four of her songs can be found on digital music retailers such as iTunes and Spotify, and an additional 10 can be found on her CD.

She has received a lot of her production, vocal, and songwriting coaching from the MMVS Music Career Mastermind Program. The young singer gets inspiration from musicians such as Taylor Swift, Adele, and Sia.

Video link for Felicia Berrier — https://youtu.be/AOw2zYBkOA4.

The show on July 30 will start at 7:30 p.m. Tickets are $10.

Kennett Flash will also present a show on July 31 in conjunction with Anson B. Nixon Park Summer Concert Series.

The free concert on Wednesday night, which features South African singer/songwriter Andrew Lipke, will start at 7 p.m. in Anson B. Nixon Park.

Concerts are rain or shine events and are only canceled in the event of severe weather. Dinner is available for purchase from Verbena BYOB with desserts offered by La Michoacana Homemade Ice Cream and Sweet Magnolia Bakery.

Nathalie Joachim

On July 25, the Delaware Art Museum (2301 Kentmere Parkway, Wilmington, Delaware, 302-571-9590, www.delart.org) will present the latest installment of its “Performance Series” – “Fanm d’Ayiti” by Nathalie Joachim with the Spektral Quartet.

“Fanm d’Ayiti” (Women of Haiti) is an evening-length work for voice, flute, string quartet and electronics developed by composer/performer Nathalie Joachim.

Commissioned by St. Paul Chamber Orchestra’s Liquid Music Series, “Fanm d’Ayiti” is a celebration of some of Haiti’s most iconic yet under-recognized female artists, as well as an exploration of Joachim’s Haitian heritage.

The project features original songs incorporating the recorded voices of Joachim’s grandmother and the girls’ choir of her family’s home farming village of Dantan.

Additionally, it features new arrangements of songs by some of the greatest female voices in Haitian history.

The multi-media performance also incorporates recorded interviews with these artists about their lives — how they fought for social justice and uplifted the people of Haiti.

Developed in a two-year Liquid Music Virtual Residency, “Fanm d’Ayiti” premiered in March 2018 with members of SPCO in St. Paul, Minnesota, and will be presented in the 2018-19 and 2019-20 season with Spektral Quartet.

Joachim is a Brooklyn-born Haitian American flutist, composer and vocalist whose music is a fusion of classical music, electronic programming, hip-hop, and soulful R&B vocals. She is co-artistic director and flutist of the four-time Grammy winning contemporary chamber ensemble Eighth Blackbird, and co-founder of the critically acclaimed urban art pop duo, Flutronix. 

Joachim is a graduate of The Juilliard School, and was the first person to successfully complete the conservatory’s MAP, Pre-College, and College Division programs. Upon graduation, she was granted the first ever Juilliard InterArts Award for independently producing and presenting exceptional interdisciplinary arts performances involving music, dance, theater and technology while pursuing her degree.

She continued her graduate degree studies at The New School, where her focus was audio production and sound design. Joachim has been described as “an edgy multi-genre performance artist who has long been pushing boundaries with her flute.”

Spektral Quartet is a string quartet based in Chicago featuring Clara Lyon (violin), Maeve Feinberg (violin), Doyle Armbrust (viola) and Russell Rolen (cello). It is the ensemble-in-residence at the University of Chicago’s Department of Music, where it has served since 2012.

The four-piece ensemble actively pursues a vivid conversation between exhilarating works of the traditional canon and those written more recently.

Spektral Quartet is known for creating seamless connections across centuries — drawing in the listener with charismatic deliveries, interactive concert formats, an up-close atmosphere, and bold, inquisitive programming.

Video link for Fanm D’Ayiti — https://youtu.be/KkFoaw9fiS8.

The performance at the Delaware Art Museum will start at 8 p.m. Tickets are $35 for adults, and $25 for youth and college students.

Marielle Kraft

Marielle Kraft just finished making her debut studio-produced EP, “The Deep End.” She released the EP on July 12 and is celebrating with a “Record Release Show” on July 26 at the World Café Live (3025 Walnut Street, Philadelphia, 215-222-1400, www.worldcafelive.com).

The indie-pop songwriter, who is based just outside of Philadelphia in northern Delaware, has displayed craftsmanship beyond her years, drawing inspiration from artists like Julia Michaels and Maggie Rogers.

Kraft’s vivid lyrics and catchy melodies have led to over 500,000 streams and nearly 17K monthly listeners on Spotify in addition to getting licensed to 14 major TV networks including MTV, Netflix, A&E, and more.

Kraft was crowned champion at the 2018 Mid-Atlantic Singer-Songwriter Competition and delivered a TEDx Talk on honesty in songwriting at the Firefly Music Festival the following June. Kraft previously released a live EP, “The Gibraltar Sessions,” in 2016 – a collection of stripped-back, acoustic-driven about love, longing, and identity.

“I made the new EP at three different studios,” said Kraft, during a phone interview last week from her home in the Trolley Square neighborhood in Wilmington.

“I wanted to work with different producers. “I played guitar and sang on all the sessions and I wanted to work with different producers. We used session musicians when needed.

“I worked with Joe Boldizar and we cut the song ‘Toothbrush’ at a studio in Philly called Retro City.

The track ‘Out of River’ was recorded in Nashville with Cameron Rocht and the song ‘Test Drive’ was done with Tyco Costantino at his studio in Haddonfield, New Jersey.”

Unlike many singer/songwriters, Kraft didn’t develop her craft during childhood days.

“I wasn’t raised in a musical household,” said Kraft, who grew up in East Greenwich, Rhode Island.

“I didn’t really get into music until late in high school. A lot of my friends in high school were musical and they taught me chords. Then, I got a guitar for my 16th birthday – and I still use that guitar.

“In college, I was majoring in English and education at the University of Delaware. So, I started songwriting. I started focusing on song structure and good lyrics. I played out at a couple campus events.”

After graduating from UD, Kraft, who played varsity lacrosse in high school and club lacrosse in college, got a job in the field of her studies.

“In 2017, I went to Maryland and started teaching sixth grade in the LaPlata School District. I was also coaching every day – middle school basketball in the winter and high school lacrosse in the spring.

“In June 2018 at the end of the school year, I decided to step away from teaching and focus on music. My first single, ‘How Far You Feel,’ came out in August 2017.”

“How Far You Feel,” an indie-pop single dealing with the dichotomy of physical vs. emotional distance in relationships, collected more than 350,000 streams across platforms.

Kraft’s single, “Test Drive,” which was released in August 2018, reached 25K streams in just two weeks. In February 2019, Kraft released a new pop single “Toothbrush” on all platforms, coupled with a brilliantly creative lyric video comprised of 50 fans singing along to her lyrics using custom Marielle Kraft toothbrushes.

Her live shows are a seamless narrative that captivates the audience through the natural ebbs and flows of life’s journey through love. This weekend, her fans will get to hear the new material in an up-close-and-personal setting.

Video link for Marielle Kraft – https://youtu.be/WRflxAZMmU8.

The show at the World Café Live, which has Chris Paterno and Brianna Nelson as openers, will start at 8 p.m. Tickets are $10.

Other upcoming shows at the venue are Vanessa Collier on July 25, and Clever Girls on July 31.

Blondie

The 2019 XPoNential Music Festival at Wiggins Park (Harbour Boulevard, Camden, New Jersey, http://xpnfest.org) is scheduled for this weekend – July 26-28.

The line-up for July 26 features Hozier, Japanese Breakfast, Killiam Shakespeare, Bettye Lavette, Rayland Baxter, Nilufer Yanya, Christone “Kingfish” Ingram and Foxtrot & The Get Go.

Acts slated to perform on July 27 are Elvis Costello, St.  the Broken Bones, Blondie, The McCrary Sisters, the Wood Brothers, J.S. Ondara, Low Cut Connie, Caroline Rose, Sister Sparrow & the Dirty Birds, Y La Bamba, Ali Awan and The Vaughns.

The schedule for July 28 includes Amy Ray Band, Sean Ardoin, Guster, Ruston Kelly, Kathleen Edwards, Gregory Alan Isakoff, Lucy Dacus, The War & Treaty, Dave Hause and the Mermaid, Zeek Burse and RFA.

Now through August 25, Cirque du Soleil will be performing its new show “Amaluna” under the Grand Chapiteau (Big Top) which has been erected on the grounds of the Greater Philadelphia Expo Center (100 Station Road, Oaks, https://www.cirquedusoleil.com/usa/oaks/amaluna/buy-tickets).

Amaluna

“Amaluna” is a celebration of women created and directed by Tony Award winning stage artist Diana Paulus. The production invites the audience to a mysterious island governed by Goddesses and guided by the cycles of the moon.

Inspired by Greek and Norse mythology, Mozart’s “The Magic Flute,” and Shakespeare’s “The Tempest,” this large-scale Big Top show features a cast comprised mostly of female artists including a 100 per cent female band, which is a first for Cirque du Soleil.

The story takes place on an island governed by goddesses. During a storm, a group of men are washed up on shore. The queen’s daughter falls for one of the young men, and the trials of their love are the basis of the show’s main narrative through-line.

“Amaluna” has many acts associated with circus performances such as “Unicycle,” “Teeterboard,” “Aerial Straps,” “Chinese Pole,” and “Juggling.”

Other acts feature genres usually associated with women such as ballet in “Peacock Dance,” gymnastics in “Uneven Bars,” water ballet in “Cerceau and Waterbowl,” and a combination of gymnastics and ballet in “Banquine.”

The cast of “Amaluna” features 48 artists. An additional 67 employees travel with the show to serve the functions of artistic management, customer service, tour services and technicians for the show and the site setup.

As always, this Cirque du Soleil production exceeds fans’ expectations.

Video link for “Amaluna” – https://youtu.be/B7OE-50wsOk.

Performances of Cirque du Soleil’s “Amaluna” will be presented from July 24-August 25 under the Grand Chapiteau in Oaks. Ticket prices start at $54.

The Steel City Coffee House (203 Bridge Street, Phoenixville, 610-933-4043, www.steelcitycoffeehouse.com) will host Open Mic  Night on July 25 and Affinity Colabs Story & Poetry Slam on July 28.

The Ardmore Music Hall (23 East Lancaster Avenue, Ardmore, 610-649-8389, www.ardmoremusic.com) will have Breakwater and UGO on July 26, Raekwon on July 27 and Stick Men on July 30.

The Keswick Theater (291 N. Keswick Avenue, Glenside, 215-572-7650, www.keswicktheatre.com) will present Jessie’s Girl on July 25.

The Grand Opera House (818 North Market Street, Wilmington, Delaware, 302-652-5577, www.thegrandwilmington.org) is hosting Doktor Kaboom on July 25.

The Locks at Sona (4417 Main Street, Manayunk, 484- 273-0481, sonapub.com) will host Crystal Bowersox with special guest Kelly Hoppenjans on July 25 and “The Beautiful Lie Tour” featuring Kelly Willis and Bruce Robison on July 31.

 The Candlelight Theater (2208 Millers Road, Arden, Delaware, 302- 475-2313, www.candlelighttheatredelaware.org) is presenting the classic hit musical “South Pacific” now through August 25. Tickets, which include a full buffet dinner, are $63.

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