Pop concerts of the Week: Tommy Castro, Eleni Mandell, and Brazilian Girls
He has revamped and pared down his band, but Tommy Castro remains a commanding blues-rock triple-threat - singer, songwriter, guitarist. On his new album The Devil You Know, Castro and that backing group, the Painkillers, deliver music with a leaner and rockier edge (no horns), highlighted by his blistering guitar. You'll still hear traces of R&B and gospel (his own "Two Steps Back," with the Holmes Brothers, and J.B. Lenoir's "The Whale Have Swallowed Me Whole"), and even some Crescent City funkiness (a cover of "Mojo Hannah" with Marcia Ball on vocals and piano). If the overall sound has taken a harder turn, however, it doesn't blunt any of Castro's intense soulfulness, as you can hear on such originals as "When I Cross the Mississippi" and "That's All I Got."
- Nick Cristiano
Eleni Mandell's much-acclaimed 2012 autobiographical CD I Can See the Future was a witty and heartfelt musical rumination on the singer-songwriter's status as a single mother. The fortysomething L.A.-based Mandell - whose toddler-aged twins are often on the road with her - has added a second musical chapter to that story with the just-released Let's Fly a Kite. Helmed by Nick Lowe producer Neil Brockbank, and featuring members of his band - whom Mandell got to know while opening for Lowe a few years back - Let's Fly a Kite offers a glimpse into her life as a parent via wry lyrics, noirish vocals, and upbeat, orchestral pop arrangements. Mandell's ability to blur the boundaries of folk, pop, country, and cabaret music remains a trademark, whether on a double-meaning ditty like "Put My Baby to Bed" or her swinging send-up of marriage, "Wedding Ring." Mandell, performing solo, is always at her best in a room where she can truly be heard, so Friday night should be a delight for fans. Opening is folksinger Vikesh Kapoor, whose buzzworthy debut, The Ballad of Willy Robbins, is a concept album chronicling the struggles and triumphs of a prototypical working-class man.
- Nicole Pensiero
Eleni Mandell, with Vikesh Kapoor, performs at 8 p.m. Friday at World Cafe Live (Upstairs), 3025 Walnut St. Tickets: $12. Information: 215-222-1400, http://philly.worldcafelive.com.
Sabina Sciubba was born in Rome, raised in Nice and Munich, sings in five languages, and, naturally, after living in Brooklyn fronting a band called Brazilian Girls, now resides in Paris. The Girls, whose multicultural melange of styles does not include Brazilian music, released three albums on Verve in the mid-'00s, and Sciubba is about to step out with Toujours, her first solo album, which comes out under the name Sabina on Feb. 18. The Brazilian Girls headline a tantalizing tripleheader at Underground Arts on Friday, with El Malito & the 33rd Century and Night Panther on the bill. Sabina returns to town for a solo show at Prince Music Theater on March 22.
- Dan DeLuca
Brazilian Girls, with El Malito & the 33rd Century and Night Panther, play 8 p.m. Friday at Underground Arts, 1200 Callowhill St. Tickets: $20. Information: www.undergroundarts.org.