For his first album in five years, Tommy Castro went back to square one.
A 2008 winner of the Blues Music Award for entertainer of the year, the singer-guitarist broke up the longtime band that bore his name and assembled Tommy Castro and the Painkillers with a different mission.
"It was a really fine band, and it was a great sound," the California native said in a phone interview from a tour stop in Oklahoma. "But I did it and I did it and I did it, three or four albums with a very similar texture to the music and not a lot of variation in beats, either.
"I started focusing in on the drums and going, 'We're using these basic blues, rock 'n' roll and soul beats,' " he continued. "I didn't realize I was doing it because my approach to songwriting started at the other end: a story, and going from the story to the melody to chord changes and finally getting around to the groove and the rhythm."
The result is "The Devil You Know," which was released in January, and, he said, changed the instrumentation, production and focus.
"The biggest thing that I think changed was getting back to more of a guitar-driven sound," Castro, 59, said. "I felt like in recent years I was trying to hide this band, this big wall of sound. I could just stop playing and it would sound awesome."
But Castro said he didn't want to change the sound so much that he'd be unrecognizable.
"It's always gonna be blues-based, it's always gonna be soulful, it's always gonna be roots-based rock 'n' roll," he said. "That's just what I do."
Castro and the Painkillers perform Tuesday night at the Redstone Room in the River Music Experience, downtown Davenport.
"The Devil You Know" has received favorable reviews and a thumbs-up from fans.
"Just the idea of keeping my music fresh, giving my faithful fans something to listen to and hopefully something really good. That's basically what I was going for," he said.
"The old fans like it, and we've started spreading out, reaching out to new people all the time, however they find new music these days," he added.
Castro praised Internet music services such as Pandora, which route listeners to other artists based on their initial interest in another performer.
He said he has enough material to compile a new album and added that he feels re-energized from the change.
"This is kind of like me going back and being a kid again, playing with my friends in the garage," he said with a laugh, adding, "hopefully a little more sophisticated than that."