It was just a couple of years ago, 2014 to be exact, that Mr. Sipp, aka Castro Coleman, set the world of the IBC on fire. Along the way, he took top honors in the band category and was named the top guitarist. Not too shabby a performance and he left Memphis with a string of new admirers.
I wasn’t there, but I got an earful from a number of friends who were, and every man, woman, and child of them raved about this guy and said he was going to be the next big thing. When that many people whose opinion matters to me tell me the same thing, I tend to listen very closely.
He released an album in 2015 entitled, The Mississippi Blues Child, and again from all concerned I heard it was fantastic. I didn’t get a copy at the time, but just ordered one so I could produce a feature on him for Time For The Blues. Y’all know I’m pretty thrifty, right?
I did receive a copy of his next album, Knock A Hole In It, just the other day. It’s scheduled to release in early April but I wanted to jump on it right away to give you my thoughts before it hits the stores.
Needless to say, it’s a fine album, chock full of great tunes, some tasty guitar work, and very strong vocals. Coleman/Sipp wrote all of the songs solo, except for on that he co-wrote with Cara Graham Hogan and Steven Dean.
Coleman/Sipp played guitar, bass, strings, percussion, arranged the horns along with The Late Great Harrison Calloway, and provided all the lead vocals. He was joined by Jeffrey Flanagan on bass; Carrol McLaughlin on piano and organ; and Stanley Dixon and Murph Caicedo on drums. The horn section was made up of The Jackson Horns which consisted of Kimble Funches on trumpet; Jessie Primer III on tenor sax; and Robert Lamkin on trombone.
Coleman and Flanagan provided all of the backing vocals.
Coleman kicks off the album with the title track, Knock A Hole In It. The song is a crunchy number with more than a little funk in the backbeat. It’s a strong story of living a life playing the blues. Sometimes you come up against a wall – an obstacle that needs addressing, and the best way to approach the problem is to just knock a hole in it. Great advice and a very good song.
He follows up with Bad Feeling, another driving number that has a gospel tinge thanks to McLaughlin’s keyboards. Coleman’s vocals have a very sharp edge and the lyrics are pointed. Solid blues number that should get some heavy air play on all the blues shows.
Things slow down just a bit on Stalking Me, but he keeps the intensity in place. This is a song with a dangerous feel and has a warning to keep an eye for all the strange people that live in our world. It’s a very cool number, and all of the first three songs are going to end up on Time For The Blues and just about every other blues show around.
Next up is the gentle Sea Of Love, which sounds more like California Rock than anything else on the album. It’s a real departure, and I enjoyed the song very much, but blues purists may not like it as much. His vocals are really amazing.
He gets back to the blues on Gotta Let Her Go. His guitar is gritty and his vocals are pointed. It’s down and dirty and just about everything that makes a blues song. I like it a lot and think it’s got to be a killer song when he does it live.
Funky and electric are the best ways to describe Going Down. It’s a blues song in its subject matter, but it’s something else musically. The soul of this song is in the lyrics and the funk is the central nervous system. It’s an unusual approach but one that I like a lot. The purists may not get into it, but the experimentation in it reminds me of what Hendrix started when he was exploring pushing the boundaries of music. Very cool work.
The one song that Coleman collaborated on with other writers, Baby You’re Mine, is next. It’s a gentler song and Coleman’s vocals are softer and more vulnerable. The orchestration is simpler, relying on piano and muted drums to kick off the song. There’s some nice harmony and even as the song gains intensity, it remains a softer approach, even after the guitar break. Very nice.
With a title like Juke Joint, do you really think I’m not going to like the song? This one has a great backbone and McLaughlin’s keys set the mood. Listening to the song I was immediately transported back to those Juke Joints that used to be the places to go to hear real blues. Long before the music became commercialized, these were the places to catch all the greats. Coleman does a great job capturing that feeling and history. Oh yeah, you’ll be hearing this one.
Coleman’s guitar leads us into the next song, Strings Attached. It’s a slow, powerful number that calls on his extensive gospel background to reach those deeper emotions. It’s a strong song in the evangelical shouting style. He mixes in several instances of slower, controlled vocals and the effect is very good.
He follows up with the more energetic Turn Up. This is some sweet Southern Soul that he’s playing here. Love the horns, love the arrangement, this is the kind of song that I used to hear on my AM Radio back in the day, and the joyous nature of those songs always made me smile. Love this one.
He keeps that Southern Soul going with the ballad, Love Don’t Live Here Anymore. With that title, you know this is a done-me-wrong song and Coleman’s voice just aches from the pain. For my money, Coleman could be at home with several different styles of music. He’s got so much soul that he can’t be contained in any one genre – so let’s just kick back and let his talent work his magic.
More Southern Soul is on tap with a song for the ladies, Love Yourself. Coleman’s voice reminds me of the great Sam Cooke and the approach of the last few songs just summons up the comparison even more. He’s got so much going for him in the last few songs – they’re not exactly blues, but they are beautiful numbers and the kind of rhythm and blues numbers that I loved when I was younger – and still do, it’s just been hard to find them until now.
Coleman concludes the album with the longest number on the album, Little Wing. It’s an unusual number that mixes in different styles. He uses the softer California Rock from earlier along with his soaring guitar. The imagery of his lyrics are unique and the song makes an interesting ending point for the album.
I can’t really find a website purely dedicated to Coleman, but there are lots of places to find out more information about him. I suggest you start with his label at https://www.malaco.com/artists/blues-r-b/mr-sipp/. And if you like great soul music, you could do a lot worse than to peruse their catalog of artists and pick up some more CDs.
Yeah, I know, I’m cheap. But I just may have to unlimber my wallet a little bit after seeing their roster. And keep your eyes open for the Kick A Hole In It tour. I understand they have already kicked a hole in Europe and are planning to do the same to the states. I can’t wait.