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Chris Castino & Chicken Wire Empire Independently Release Fresh Pickles
A Star-Studded Bluegrass Restyling of Castino’s Music with The Big Wu

Featuring appearances by

Sam Bush, Jerry Douglas, Vince Herman, Nick Forster, Tim O’Brien, Peter Rowan, Keller Williams, Andy Hall, and Album Co-Producer Adam Greuel

~Fresh Pickles Out TODAY February 4, 2022~
www.chriscastino.com

“Chris Castino is one of those rare musicians who thrives in multiple styles. In his case, the styles are rock and bluegrass. In a conversation with Phil Nusbaum, Chris spoke of his journey becoming a pro musician.”
KBEM Jazz88.5’s Bluegrass Saturday Morning with Phil Nusbaum

“Chris Castino’s love of bluegrass started in the mid ’90s when a lot of that music was lively, fun, and irreverent – much like 1995’s ‘Kangaroo.’”
The Bluegrass Situation Premieres “Kangaroo” 

“Castino sings with the kind of laid back, campfire swagger that lends itself well to this light-hearted advisory of a tune, and one can picture it right at home in the grainy picking sessions of Heartworn Highways… Castino is naturally suited for the bluegrass life and there is plenty to be excited for on Fresh Pickles.”
Glide Magazine Premieres “Jackson County”

St. Paul, Minn. — 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 Castino
Photo by David Jackson

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. 

What folks are saying:

“Some tunes are firecrackers & others are dynamite. ‘Red Sky,’ is a workout that smokes. Guest fiddle-player Sam Bush provides the drive on this splendid tune. What makes Castino special is his ability to keep the bluegrass recipe spiced up with genre-shifting. He adds hints of 60s psychedelia, harmonic ballads, yet keeps it true to the tradition. This isn’t a novelty record; the songs are serious & well-played… These musicians must enjoy what they do because their joy translates through their instruments. The energy, fingering techniques, are all proponents that deliver substance with a modicum of joy. There aren’t any low points, missteps, loss of heat in any of these melodies.” —Americana Highways, John Apice

“This album is a collection of eleven beautifully complex and wonderfully arranged songs that highlight the lyrics and vocal abilities of Chris Castino. As the Big Wu fans have come to expect from him, he has delivered a masterpiece, a guided tour through a rootsy tapestry of sound that will make them all feel at home, even if in a slightly different musical environment… This is definitely an album for all Bluegrass fans … a triumph of technical ability bonded perfectly with the accessibility of the songs. An excellent addition to any country or bluegrass playlist… some astonishing music.”
Alan Cackett (UK)

“…the energy from the stage was powerful…the room even had a similar festival feel as The Big Wu show… the best part was standing near fans, who would shout within seconds of the song starting the title of the new Jam turned Bluegrass song and the delight of fans of Chris and the Chicken Wire Empire. It’s fun to get a new look (or listen) at music.”
Mostly Minnesota, Ann Treacy (Live show review Hook & Ladder 1/28/22)

“The Big Wu play a fairly large role in my high school and college days. I grew up in Aberdeen, SD, which seemed to be a common tour stop for the band. We even got a shoutout on the song ‘Red Sky’ (‘from Butte to Aberdeen’) and a nickname from the band, the Aberdeen Army… Each of these songs brings me to a place of nostalgia in the best possible way. That said, they are reimagined in a way that is still familiar and at the same time totally fresh pickles.”
KAXE, Kari Hedlund

“…don’t worry if you’re not familiar with The Big Wu, for this album can certainly function as an introduction to the band’s music. As long as you like good songwriting and appreciate some fine bluegrass playing, you’ll enjoy this album.”
Michael Doherty’s Music Log

“It is so great to hear Chris playing and singing with some of the best in the ever-expanding bluegrass world. To go from one of the seminal jambands of my young adult life to a bluegrass outfit is a testament to his versatility. Always loved Chris’s voice!”  —Adam Ajala (Yonder Mountain String Band)

“Castino is one witty and wild loon. His lyrics tell a vivid story and his chord progressions are often that lovely balance between familiar and boundary-pushing.” —Adam Greuel

“It’s fun to collaborate with old bros. This direction seems to make sense for Chris. Storytelling and quick picking is right up his alley.” Keller Williams

Fresh Pickles Track Listing:
1.) Kangaroo 2:38
2.) Red Sky 4:25 (feat. Sam Bush)
3.) Bound For the South 5:26 (w/ Tim O’Brien and Nick Forster)
4.) Shanty Town 3:24 (feat. Vince Herman)
5.) Minnesota Moon 3:41 (w/ Adam Greuel)
6.) Texas Fireball 2:38 (feat. Keller Williams and Andy Hall)
7.) Young Pioneer 3:57
8.) Rhode Island Red 3:18
9.) Jackson County 5:33 (feat. Jerry Douglas and Adam Greuel)
10.) The Ballad of Dan Toe 6:32 (feat. Peter Rowan and Jerry Douglas)
11.) Irregular Heartbeat 4:59

Fresh Pickles Instrumentation:

Chris Castino – vocals, guitar

Chicken Wire Empire:
Jordan Kroeger – bass
Ernest Brusbardis IV – fiddle, vocals
Jon Peik – banjo, vocals
Ryan Ogburn – mandolin

WuGrass: Chris Castino & Chicken Wire Empire Tour Dates:
2/11 Fri – Martyrs  – Chicago, IL
2/12 Sat – Cavalier Theater & Lounge – LaCross, WI
3/17 Thu – Bell’s Eccentric Cafe – Kalamazoo, MI
3/18 Fri – Woodlands Tavern w/ Del McCoury Band – Columbus, OH
3/19 Sat – Parliament Room at Otus Supply – Ferndale, MI
4/28 Thu – High Noon Saloon – Madison, WI
5/27 Fri – Revival Music Festival – Clarks Grove, MN

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