One way or another, the Americana classification seems to follow Jerry Castle.
It happened in frustrating fashion during the mid-2000s, when Castle spent about a year working as a for-hire songwriter in Nashville, Tenn.
“I would sing the demos,” he says, “and I was told, ‘Well, that comes across as Americana. We need to hone in on what artist we’re going for.’ [So we’d get] a demo singer to do it, and I’d hear, ‘Well, you know, it still sounds Americana. It’s the production. It needs to be brighter.’ So then we’d do that, and at the end, they’d go, ‘Well, you know, it’s a good song, but it’s nothing special.’ And I’d think, ‘Yeah, you’re not damn kidding it’s nothing special. You sucked everything that could be possibly be special about it out.’ And now we’ve spent all this money and time on these damn songs that I’m not proud of — that I’m not going to let anybody else hear again.”
Flash forward to 2012: Castle has completed what he thinks will be his third solo album.
“When I was taking it around to industry people — when it got down to finding a radio promoter, a management team, a publicist — I [was hearing], ‘Well, this is kind of a classic-rock record. I don’t know what we’re going to do with it. We can’t take it to Americana.’
“So I started stripping away songs and replacing songs and rewriting,” he adds. “Any time you get into dissecting your artistry and what you’ve been writing naturally from instinct — it takes time to accept it.”
His initial efforts are still well represented on Desperate Parade, Castle’s third commercially available solo album, which includes about five reworked tunes from his shelved rock project (which was titled Embrace).
“I think my music, no matter what I do, it falls into that [gray] area,” he says. “I’m already hearing a little bit on this record: ‘It’s a little commercial for [the] Triple A [radio format].’ Well, I guess I shouldn’t have listened to so much pop radio as a kid.”
Desperate Parade (due June 25) features a few notable guests, among them longtime Rolling Stones saxophonist Bobby Keys, who plays on “Nashville Night,” the album’s closer.
“The funny thing is, I had just read the Keith Richards book [Life], and I had just seen the Exile on Main Street documentary, all within a seven-to-10 day period, and there I was talking to Bobby Keys,” Castle says. “So it was all a little bit surreal.”
Keys arrived early for his session and “was more than ready to go,” remembers Castle, who laughs thinking about Keys’ unexpected vocal contribution to “Nashville Night.”
“[At the end], he says, ‘Let’s do another one, and that way, you got another one,’ ” says Castle. “Yeah, Bobby, you’re a real philosopher.”
Hey, it certainly beats hearing yet another genre assessment.
— By Chris M. Junior
Jerry Castle on tour (schedule subject to change):
* June 14: Smith’s Old Bar — Atlanta
* June 19: Altamount Theater — Asheville, N.C.
* June 20: 12th and Porter — Nashville, Tenn.
* June 21: Rudyard Kipling — Louisville, Ky.
* June 26: Dan Electro’s Guitar Bar — Houston
* June 27: Parish Underground — Austin, Texas
* June 29: Genghis Cohen — Los Angeles
* July 11: Mother’s — Chicago
* July 12: Pop’s Blue Moon — St. Louis
* July 13: Bear’s Place — Bloomington, Ind.
* July 17: Blue Plate Special — Knoxville, Tenn.
* July 19: Parish Underground — Austin, Texas
* July 20: Wild Rooster — Fort Worth, Texas
* July 25: Farmers Market — Abingdon, Va.
* July 27: Longbranch Saloon — Knoxville, Tenn.
* Aug. 10: Mexicali Live — Teaneck, N.J.
* Aug. 14: Honest Pint — Chattanooga, Tenn.