Chris Castino, the primary songwriter for The Big Wu, recently took the opportunity, while sitting through COVID-19 lock-downs in 2020 and 2021, to arrange some of his catalog into impeccably fitting bluegrass tunes with the incredibly talented band Chicken Wire Empire from Milwaukee, WI. With many of Chris’ lifelong musical heroes collaborating, including several GRAMMY winning artists in the bluegrass and Americana: Sam Bush, Peter Rowan, Tim O’Brien, Jerry Douglas, Andy Hall, Vince Herman, Nick Forster, Keller Williams, and Adam Greuel, this feels like a classic bluegrass album and sounds instantly familiar.
Fresh Pickles is a light-hearted, down-home concept that plays with the idea that although some of the songs were written many years before, they now feel brand new. Fresh. The album highlights some of his most beloved tunes with a classic 70’s and 80’s alt-bluegrass sound; it features stomping rippers and sweet, harmonic ballads, as well as a taste of genre-shifting psychedelic rides.
Met with critical acclaim, including premieres in The Bluegrass Situation, Relix, and Glide, as well as significant radio airplay and on the air in over 20 states—the album is currently at #4 on the Alt Country Chart this week and on the rise on the Americana and Jamband radio charts. Fresh Pickles was independently released February 4 and is now available to stream and purchase → https://distrokid.com/hyperfollow/chriscastinowithchickenwireempire/fresh-pickles.
Chris says, “What turned out to be just something to occupy our time while we weren't touring, became something outstanding. It brings me joy to hear how these songs in particular have been given new life. For music lovers who are unfamiliar with my songs I truly believe that this record will be a fresh experience for them. It's not essential to understand the history of these songs to appreciate them.”
Album co-producer Adam Greuel (Horseshoes and Hand Grenades, The High Hawks) says, “I've always heard and felt the influence of bluegrass music on Caz's songwriting. Lyrically, his content and themes seem to occasionally draw from that tradition, while the music has hints of that bluegrass drive or perhaps the sweetness of a traditional waltz. When Castino gave me a ring and explained that he was interested in breathing some new life into some of his more loved Big Wu classics by way of bluegrass, my initial reaction was raw excitement.”
Fresh Pickles can be seen as a retrospective and reexamination of Castino’s music through a bluegrass lens. The album features 11 original songs penned by Castino. All of which, but one, were first released on four of The Big Wu’s five studio albums spanning from 1997-2019. The Big Wu is a longtime popular Minnesota-based rock’n’roll jamband who formed in 1992. The band’s momentum was driven by Castino’s catchy songwriting and the band’s hefty tour schedule in the late 90’s early 00’s, which launched the band into becoming a mainstay in the national roots and jamband scene as a full-time touring commodity for years. They had quickly ascended from the comforts of the local club scene to playing H.O.R.D.E Fest, Bonnaroo (being the first band to perform at the inaugural event), Gathering of the Vibes, High Sierra, and the list goes on.
Castino’s early passion for bluegrass music was cultivated by his father, a professional singer of standards, who was captivated by that plaintive, lonesome vocal style. He says, “I learned all he could from the weekly dose of bluegrass served, like some foreign cuisine to the northern city folk of Minneapolis who knew not the traditions of the southern hill folk, by host Phil Nusbaum and his 35+ years long running radio show Bluegrass Saturday Morning on local community radio: to this day.” Captivated, he began to steer his composing down this road.
Fresh Pickles aims to satisfy your cravings and is just the beginning of Castino’s heartfelt and fulfilling voyage into bluegrass. Always true to the tradition and authentic in presentation, Fresh Pickles is packed with great music.