Houston Calling

Tody Castillo CD release show, CD review

February 23rd, 2005 · No Comments

In the more than 10 years I’ve lived in Houston, I have seen countless bands perform. But in the almost two years that I have been doing Houston Calling, I have been more impressed with the quality of musicians gracing the city than ever before. There are far too many to mention right now, but since it’s timely I will point out one in particular, Tody Castillo.

Castillo is a singer/songwriter whose music is often a cross between Ryan Adams (that’s Ryan (of Whiskeytown fame), not Bryan (of Robin Hood fame)) and Tom Petty. I interviewed Tody for Houston Calling at the end of 2003, and the full-length album he spoke of at the time is finally going to see the light of day this weekend.

Castillo’s CD release show is this Saturday night at Rudyard’s (Waugh Dr.), with another great local band, Scattered Pages [website], opening the show around 10 p.m. This is sure to be a great night of local music so be sure to come check out the bands and buy some CDs.

Castillo will also play an in-store at Cactus Music and Video on Saturday at 1 p.m. This is a free show, with refreshments provided by St. Arnold’s (the limit is two per person while the supply lasts).

I recently wrote a review of Tody’s new CD for this week’s Swizzle-Stick online magazine [website]. I have taken the liberty of reprinting it here. Enjoy.

Tody Castillo

“I’ve been a lonely boy, until now,” musician Tody Castillo sings on “This Is Love,” from his new self-titled album. And the songs leave the listener with little doubt he’s speaking the truth. With titles like “Brainwashed,” “Independence Day” and “Fall In Love,” one easily gets the sense that Castillo is weaving his lovelorn trials and tribulations into a very creative outlet.

Musically, Castillo owes a bit to alt-country pioneers like Wilco but doesn’t let the album get bogged down by rigidly sticking to one genre. He owes just as much to Tom Petty’s pop-rock sensibilities, and it’s easy to compare Castillo’s songs to another alt.country rocker, Ryan Adams. But where Adams lost himself (and fans) by believing his own hype, listening to this album gives the impression that Castillo would probably be as humble and honest even if he were someday in a GAP commercial.

Like Adams’ work, Castillo’s songs spark real emotion — there’s something in his songs to which almost every listener can relate. Whether falling in love, mistreating a loved one, or simply pining away for a lost love, Castillo’s songs allow brief snatches of familiar introspection. His songs are honest and thoughtful enough to make the listener take a step back, listen intently, and recall similar situations. It’s a special quality, and is rare in much of the indie songwriting of today.

In the song “I’m Gonna Change,” for instance, Castillo writes about hurting the one he loves (and damaging himself in the process). “Because it’s getting dangerous… / when I lose control / I yell at the wrong one / because I’m too busy drinking / I feel so bad / that I hurt you, hurt myself / and I feel so sad / I don’t wanna lose you, lose myself.” It’s an incredibly upbeat tune for the subject matter, probably the album’s finest choice for a single, and yet seems deep enough to appeal to the harshest music critic and the record-buying public alike.

“Breathe Deep” is the largest departure from most of the songs on the album, an acoustic number — almost Days of the New meets The Moody Blues — with a faint echo of pedal steel guitar (by musician Mateo Bleach). Lyrically, it’s top-notch, and is an interesting take on big city life (though Houston-based, Castillo has spent time performing in New York City). Castillo sings, “And the night falls much too soon / and the city never lets up / but the winter’s a lovely gloom / much better when you’re hooked up / and I’m doing fine”. On another song, “Nobody’s Gonna Bother Me,” Castillo forsakes the city for country life (“I’m done with the orange lights at night / out here the stars burn bright / just like they should,” he sings). With a slow, acoustic guitar and (again) the wonderful pedal steel guitar, you almost can see the homestead Castillo yearns for.

Not everything’s sweet and tender on the album, however. Castillo is quite capable of pulling off his cynical side. On “Don’t Leave The Country,” he broods over a lost love yet seems more relieved than heartbroken at her departure. He sings, “Don’t say you love me / then leave the country / don’t say I’m yours / then walk right out the door… / God knows I want you back / but I’m also happy you left.” The bittersweet sentiment serves as another example of Castillo’s ability to make the personal seem more familiar.

“Backstreets” is one of the few straight-ahead rockers on the album, and “Brainwashed,” another standout, is the poppiest of the bunch. The track utilizes samples and a “Woo hoo hoo!” chorus as its catchy hook — certainly an odd inclusion on the album, but a great song nonetheless. It’s the slower songs on the album, however, that truly showcase Castillo and his bandmates’ — drummer Paul Valdez, bassists Steve Brown and Ryan Biddle, keyboardists Eddie Hobozal and Cameron Dezen, and background vocalist Mando Saenz — talents. The faster songs definitely work, and engineer Steve Christianson deserves his credit, but it’s on tracks like “Not That Kind Of Girl,” “Tennison Hotel,” and the stunningly amazing trio of “This Is Love,” God Only Knows,” and “Independence Day” that Castillo shows his songmanship and really shines.

“I’m a happy man for once,” he sings on “This Is Love.” And with an album of this quality, Castillo’s newfound happiness is well-deserved.

You can find more information on Tody Castillo (including how to get his new CD) on his website, and in Thursday’s Houston Chronicle.

You can visit Swizzle-Stick here.

You can discuss music in general in the message board.

Now, I know the Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo begins this weekend but you’d be doing yourself a great disservice by ignoring great local music for the goings-on there. Not to mention the inevitable traffic headaches and, well, the crowds. If you must go, please use Metro’s services.

Now Playing in My iPod: HoyForever Endeavour

Tags: Music