Free Castro! 

Tommy Castro Band opens CSUH-Concord's free summer concert series.

"I don't get enough gigs in the East Bay," complains Tommy Castro. "I hate to make everybody have to drive a long way, so this is a good date to have." Blues singer/guitarist Castro is talking about the Tommy Castro Band's Friday, May 10 appearance at Cal State Hayward in Concord's free "Concert in the Hills Series 2002." The San Rafael-based bluesman and his longtime band -- Keith Crossan on tenor sax, Billy Lee Lewis on drums, Randy McDonald on bass -- kick off the summer concert series, still riding high on their 2001 CD Guilty of Love, which features one of the late, great John Lee Hooker's last vocals.

"I've always been influenced by John Lee," remembers Castro, "and it occurred to me how much my own phrasing was beginning to sound like his. His vocals just knocked me out, so I asked him to contribute to my CD. It was the last week of his life. I went to his house, and right there, sitting on his couch, he put on the headphones and did the track. It was just right, just what I was looking for." Castro has worked with them all, from B.B. King and Buddy Guy to Etta James and Carlos Santana, and he's looking forward to the open-air festival season. "I plan to get together with other songwriters in the towns we're going to, like in Nashville with Delbert [McClinton]," says Castro. As always, the group's trademark close-knit sound is a large part of its appeal. "We've had the same band for ten years. Having this longevity adds a lot to the quality of our music. They read my mind better than I do," jokes Castro.

The Tommy Castro Band goes on at 8 p.m. Friday (opening acts at 7) on the CSUH-Contra Costa campus (4700 Ygnacio Valley Rd., Concord). Like the other events in the summer series (Shana Morrison, Cajun musicians Tom Rigney & Flambeau, and the West African Highlife Band, et al.), the Castro show is free and open to the public. 925-602-6700 or www.concertinthehills.org

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