Del Castillo 90I can’t believe it’s not Burlap! This superb Mediterranean-flavoured acoustic rock package has it all: re-invented hits, covers, live jams and anthemic new tracks.

Label:        Sony / RED / The Music Agents (Blue Label) / Soul Food
CD:           13 tracks / 64 Minutes
DVD:         6 tracks / 54 Minutes

Many regulars to this site would not be able to hear Del Castillo without thinking of Burlap to Cashmere, the American / Mediterranean band, who – though acoustic – were electric when they played live.

Del Castillo, based around the eponymous brothers Mark and Rick, fits that same bill: Latin and rock rhythms propel their acoustic guitar-driven music that is finished with flamenco fire.

The band has won awards as album, group and live act of the year; while film directors such as Quentin Tarantino and Robert Rodriguez have loved them enough to make sure that they feature in their movies. Even though they are predominantly acoustic, the band was still one of only half a dozen acts to launch Gibson’s new Les Paul Dark Fire line.

If you are new to this outfit, this project is well worth giving a try. New songs and re-recorded versions of some of their best material flow seamlessly together, with the bonus of a DVD that contains behind-the-scenes action and interviews, plus five new songs (all in HD) – including three covers that you would not normally find together. As you might guess from the format, this is pretty much filler-free. There is so much to love.

With only four new songs, there is no need for padding. These are even stronger than the classics that follow. They begin with “Lumbres de Babylon,” which accelerates as it goes on; the lively instrumental “Fuego Egipcio;” a mobile-waving stadium ballad “Muher Angel” and “Canta de Alma,” which explodes into life as a fan-chant favourite. The chant is a device that helps to jump the language barrier (very few of these songs have English lyrics) but the exhilaration of the music transcends language anyway.

When it comes to songs like “Mi Carino,” I can’t believe it’s not Burlap. As well as the sound, Del Castillo infuses many of its songs with spiritual lines, such as in “Brotherhood:”

"There goes my brother
There goes my sister
There is my mother
Amen to the Father
… Prayers from the saints and sinners; Blood that sets me free
… Only peace and love will flow
From my Padre Santo
cuz I know He’s watching over me"

The re-recorded songs feature plenty of guests (Gypsy fiddlers Erik Hokkanen and Phoebe Hunt; Monte Montgomery on guitar; Malford Milligan on bluesy vocals; and producer Carl Thiel on piano) but the CD ends with German opera diva Anna Maria Kaufmann sharing vocals. I think it works – just.

The DVD has so much background information in its 26-minute featurette that newcomers might feel like long-term fans by the end of it. The genial band members go through the formation of these songs, with special attention paid to the guest musicians. As well as the music video to one of the big songs, “Canta de Alma,” there are also studio jams of the Doobie Brothers’ “Listen to the Music” (very close to the original), “What a Wonderful World” (which sounds so natural in Del Castillo’s bluesy style) and “While My Guitar Gently Weeps,” which gets a somewhat overlong “Freebird” treatment – nine minutes is a bit more than the song can handle, but the first two-thirds are great.

Altogether, this is a real joy; the sort of passionate material that makes jaded reviewers fall back in love with music. Fresh-faced flamenco; great classics given a new coat of paint; jamming with the enthusiasm of a band that is comfortable together, but years away from feeling tired; and songs full of character and flair. Great stuff.


Derek Walker