14th Annual New England Winter Blues Festival: A Gulf Coast Records Review
The upcoming 2024 New England Winter Blues Festival and Tour will be simultaneously billed as a Gulf Coast Records Revue. Featuring four Gulf Coast recording artists/four of the blues world’s most fierce and beloved guitar slingers. Popa Chubby, Albert Castiglia, Monster Mike Welch and Paul Size (along with his band, The Wicked Lo-Down) will be bringing bona fide Blues Guitarmageddon to the New England this coming February.
Popa Chubby, born Ted Horowitz, has been hard rocking the blues in his fierce and soulful way for more than 30 years. Over the course of a career that dates back to 1994, he has been a force of to be reckoned with on the guitar, and his tempestuous, soulful playing has never been more powerful. An imposing figure with a shaven head, tattooed arms, a goatee and a performance style he describes as “the Stooges meets Buddy Guy, Motörhead meets Muddy Waters, and Jimi Hendrix meets Robert Johnson,” Popa Chubby is an endearing character who is one of the genre’s most popular figures.
Miami-raised Albert Castiglia served an apprenticeship while backing legendary blues musician Junior Wells. He later went on to work with singer Sandra Hall. Never content to allow himself to be conﬁned to any particular category, he embarked on a solo career that’s yielded many critically-acclaimed albums and consist kudos for his exceptional instrumental prowess, his searing vocals, and live performances that have dazzled audiences from coast to coast. It’s little wonder that Miami’s New Times lauded him as South Florida’s “Best Blues Guitarist” or that USA Today was inspired to remark “It’s a revelation to discover the thrilling retro-electric blues from this astonishing young guitarist.” M Music & Musicians once noted, “His back-to-basics approach follows in the footsteps of those who fostered the blues in the Mississippi Delta and the smoky late-night haunts of Chicago.” After the highly successful and critically acclaimed release of Masterpiece on Gulf Coast Records, Castiglia was nominated for two Blues Music Awards in the categories of Blues Rock Album of the Year and Blues Rock Artist of the Year and won Blues Rock Album of the Year..
Monster Mike Welch
With almost three decades of touring and recording under his belt, Boston-based blues guitarist Monster Mike Welch is a seasoned veteran of the international blues scene. Given the nickname “Monster Mike” by actor/Ghostbuster Dan Aykroyd at the tender age of 13, Welch has since carved out a niche as a highly accomplished and in-demand guitarist. To date, Welch has released several albums under his own name and in 2001, he joined the ranks of one of New England’s most beloved blues institutions, Sugar Ray and the Bluetones, where he stayed until 2017, recording five albums and racking up multiple Blues Music Award nominations for the band in that time. In addition, Welch has recorded with Shemekia Copeland, Ronnie Earl, Danielle Nicole, Duke Robillard, Johnny Winter, Victor Wainwright, Nick Moss, the Mannish Boys and Sugaray Rayford, among others. Welch left the Bluetones in 2017 to focus on his partnership with Mike Ledbetter, which led to seven Blues Music Award nominations and the formation of the Welch Ledbetter Connection within the first year. Welch has received three consecutive Blues Music Award nominations by the Blues Foundation for Instrumentalist-Guitar beginning in 2016, a Boston Music Award for Best Blues Act, and is an inductee of the Rhode Island Music Hall Of Fame. In 2023, Monster Mike Welch embarked on the next phase of his career when he signed with Gulf Coast Records to make new music.
The Wicked Lo-Down
Formed in 2020 just before the Covid lockdown by Blues guitar giant Paul Size (The Red Devils, Mick Jagger, Sugar Ray & the Bluetones) and powerhouse blues belter Nick David (Mr. Nick & the Dirty Tricks, Queen City Kings), they blend raw Texas Blues and hard hitting Northeast R&B into their own completely original house rockin’ sound. The band also consists of bassist Brad Hallen (Duke Robillard, Roomful of Blues, Susan Tedeschi) 2nd guitarist Jeff Berg (Ryan Hartt & the Blue Hearts, The Howl) and drummer Nick Toscano, (GA-20, Mark Hummel, Junior Watson). Their debut album “We Hot” has been receiving critical acclaim from some of the biggest names in the Blues world and beyond. Consisting of ten well crafted, rock solid barn burners, this record establishes them as a true force to be reckoned with and leaves no doubt that from Austin to Boston is how they roll. Their follow up album, Out of Line Is set to be released on Gulf Coast Records sometime in the spring of 2024 And should thoroughly cement them as a true force to be reckoned with in both the blues and rock ‘n’ roll world.