Tommy Castro, Jimmy
Hall & Lloyd Jones,
Triple Trouble
(Telarc, 2003)

Take a pair of hard-working blues guitarists/vocalists, mix in a talented harmonica and sax player with a great set of pipes and add the backing power of Stevie Ray Vaughn's old band, and the result is the album Triple Trouble by Tommy Castro, Jimmy Hall and Lloyd Jones.

Hall is the former vocalist and harpist for Wet Willie, while Castro and Jones each bring more than a decade of musicianship to this new ensemble. All three also contribute to the songwriting duties on Triple Trouble. And the original songs stack up pretty well against the covers the trio chose for this debut disc.

Of the covers, the Lennon and McCartney classic "Help" is a formidable choice. But, to quote Art Tipaldi's liner notes, "Instead of buckling under a sound-alike, Jones drives the song into uncharted waters with inspirational class." The song is one of the best on the album and stands in stark contrast to the too-reverential approach taken on James Brown's "Good Good Lovin'." Meanwhile, Johnny Winter's "Be Careful with a Fool" presents Castro with a chance to let fly with the sort of magnificent, blazing guitar chops that mark this album's best moments.

Of the original tracks on Triple Trouble, "If That Ain't Love" sounds a bit too much like it was lifted from Robert Cray's Strong Persuader album. But Castro's "Whole Lotta Soul," Jones's "Raised in the Country" and Hall's "Love Will" provide each of the composers with opportunities to strut their vocal stuff.

Where Triple Trouble falls well short of its potential is on songs such as "Sometimes," the band's unfortunate choice of opening track. With three reasonably strong vocalists on hand, one would think that the whole would be stronger than the individual parts. But the similarity of the three voices creates a strange anonymity whenever more than one of the singers steps up to the microphone. The problem is compounded by the fact that there are almost no attempts at harmony, making the few instances of layered vocals all the more pointless.

Closing out the Triple Trouble disc is an excerpt from a jam session featuring Hall's improvised lyrics and Jones on lead guitar. While the playing is tight and the track was obviously a blast to record, "Cold Funk" simply doesn't hold together as a song.

In the end, Triple Trouble feels rushed, and a bit thrown together. A little time working out stronger vocal arrangements and crafting a couple of songs as a team would have benefited this disc mightily. Castro, Hall and Jones have the talent to be a killer combo but seem to lack the patience to fully realize their potential.

- Rambles
written by Gregg Thurlbeck
published 30 October 2004

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