There is a certain kind of show that nourishes the soul and leaves a sweet aftertaste for many days. “Blood Brothers” is the pairing of highly lauded blues guitarist Mike Zito and acclaimed blues rock guitarist Albert Castiglia, who are bonded both through music and friendship. Their dynamic tour showcases each band (Mike Zito Band and Albert Castiglia Band) for an individual set and then culminates both bands together on stage, creating an infectious blend of classic Southern rock, blues and American roots music. On Friday, April 8th, they stopped by the famed Bull Run in Shirley, MA on their Blood Brothers Tour for a sold out night of good ‘ol foot stomping blues. With a showtime clocking in at three hours, the intimate venue provided a playground for both bands to set the room ablaze with fiery guitar solos, electrifying jam sessions and of course, soulful blues rock tunes.
Albert Castiglia set to the stage first, performing seven songs that awakened the crowd and set the groove for the night ahead. Soaring on the high of a current No. 1 album on the US Billboard Blues charts with his latest release I Got Love, Castiglia rocked the house with tracks off his newest LP, throwbacks from early in his career, and from his Zito-produced 2019 album, Masterpiece. With an engaging sense of humor and penchant for entertaining the audience, Castiglia introduced a new track “Take My Name Out Of Your Mouth” as an aptly timed release in which Will Smith owed him royalties after this past month’s controversial Oscars ceremony. Towards the end of the number, lyrics were cleverly exchanged for “Keep my wife’s name out your mouth” and Albert explained to the crowd, “That song was not written for Will Smith. It was written a year ago as a love letter to Facebook”. Joined by Justine Tompkins on bass, Ephraim Lowell on drums, and Lewis Stephens on keys (a former member of the legendary Freddie King Band), they closed out the night with a high charged Freddie King number, “Boogie Funk” that earned the band a standing ovation.
Mike Zito followed up Castiglia’s set with the conviction of a true seasoned performer. Bringing alongside some of the industry’s tightest musicians, the four-piece unit consisting of Doug Byrkit on bass, Matthew Johnson on drums, Lewis Stephens on keyboards, and of course led by Zito himself, truly blew the crowd away with their tight precision, exhilarating jam sessions, and electric fusion of blues and southern rock. One of the most saluted artists in the contemporary blues arena, Zito rocked the crowd with a masterly technical skill and rousing setlist. Starting his set with “I’ll Make Love To You” off his 2021 album, Resurrection, the band expertly transitioned into “Presence of the Lord”, a Blind Faith cover that very well could have been composed by Zito himself from the sounds of it. Throughout the night, many covers were tossed into the mix, including multiple inflections from the Allman Brothers Band and even a Led Zeppelin medley of “Kashmir” and “Whole Lotta Love” that intertwined with Zito’s showstopping “Judgement Day”.
After both individual sets, the pair joined together on stage for another hour of jamming. Cranking out multiple Allman Brothers Band tunes with dueling drummers, to Derek and the Dominos’ “Tell the Truth”, the two musicians played off one another and amped up the palpable energy in the room. With guitar riffs that cut right through you, and an ever-enthusiastic crowd standing up to dance and cheer, there was not a person left standing still. 24-year-old guitarist Tyler Morris joined the band for the last twenty minutes of the show, contributing his impressive guitar skills with effortless dexterity. Closing out the show was a supercharged cover of Neil Young’s “Rockin’ in the Free World” that truly blew the audience away and left a noticeable sizzle in the room, like the charge felt in the air right before a storm. The indelible forces of both Mike Zito and Albert Castiglia were equally as compelling, but together they are simply monumental. Both so highly skilled in their craft, they vehemently soar through each song and complement one another effortlessly, in a yin and yang dynamic of reckless rock abandon. Even better, the duo are taking Blood Brothers into the studio. The promise of an official Blood Brothers LP sometime in the near future is just as titillating as their show itself.