San Francisco–based Tommy Castro is a blues-rock veteran who over the past 20 years has impressed audiences with his incredible guitar work. But it’s a packed field of ambitious players out there. To stand out from the crowd, Castro keeps a solid, brutal backing band in The Painkillers and invites noteworthy guests to help get the album over the finish line. Throughout the album, Castro is joined by the likes of The Holmes Brothers, Joe Bonamassa, Marcia Ball, Tab Benoit, Mark Karan, Samantha Fish, Tasha Taylor, and the J. Geils Band’s Magic Dick. Castro uses them judiciously. In James Pace, he's already got a keyboardist who keeps things moving thrillingly; the rhythm section of bassist Randy McDonald and drummer Byron Cage nails the pocket with little effort. A cover of Wet Willie’s “Keep On Smilin’” will resonate with folks who lived through the '70s, while the 2013 single “Greedy” ramps up the power chords and a soul vibe. “Two Steps Forward” vamps with nasty precision, with The Holmes Brothers adding vocals and Magic Dick tricking out on harmonica.