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Grace, by John Castrigano

John Castrigano... Where to start? Let's just say that John may be the single most talented artist to have ever entered Handsome Studio, where he recorded his debut album, "Grace," in 2014-15.  But in truth, that's not where it started - John was in fact one of three Cleveland Heights brothers who comprised the core of a spunky little band called The Breakaway Thrill. (All of the three brothers were and are ardent soccer players, thus the band's title - you know, you get the ball in the clear, and off you go to score a goal. It's a "breakaway thrill.")

The brothers, along with a revolving cast of drummers, keyboardists, and even a horn section, began playing covers and originals by John, and they got around - playing regular gigs around town and attracting a loyal fan base of family and friends. As time went on and the boys got older, they began to float off to college and assume "adult" responsibilities, and things slowed down. But John kept writing and Paul kept playing the guitar, even as he went off to Harvard for his own college experience.

Meantime, Handsome proprietor Paul Nickels was working as an administrator at a Catholic school in Lakewood when he was approached by a faculty member who had heard he had some involvement in rock & roll and also had the ability to record (at that time, the Handsome studio was in Nickels's Lakewood attic). That faculty member was Dan Castrigano.

Dan asked Nickels if he'd be interested in recording his brother, and Nickels was up for anything. John duly arrived at Handsome to begin recording demos. Well...

There is a moment that guys who man the board in a recording studio hear, for the very first time, the artist they are about to record. It can go many ways... That person may or may not have much talent, is easy to work with or not, whatever, but the BIG moment is when someone straps on a guitar, takes the chair, and starts to play and sing. For Nickels, it was a VERY BIG MOMENT when John Castrigano took the chair.

This guy could write, and he could sing. And thus began the making of "Grace."

While "Grace" wasn't released as a Breakaway Thrill album, it certainly involved the core of that band - all of the bass playing was the work of Dan Castrigano, and tons of great guitar work was added by Paul Castrigano (Paul came to be known as "The Secret Weapon" during the making of "Grace"; he is a phenomenal guitarist). The three core musicians were augmented by several different drummers, including John's cousin, who was tremendous.  When it was all over, John had made himself a beautiful record, featuring 11 originals.

The Castrigano Brothers
The well traveled Castrigano brothers: John, Dan and Paul.

Here are the "Grace" tracks. Click any title to play it, or right click and save it to your computer. Burn yourself a record. It's fantastic...

Follow Through
Covent Garden
My Runaway
See You In The Summertime
An Hour Ago
The Last Picture
Delicate and Strong
Sweet November

There were numerous outtakes from the "Grace" sessions, which Nickels later mixed and finished and which may someday see the light of day. In the meantime, after some years in Houston following his graduation from Harvard, Paul Castrigano, aka "The Secret Weapon," is back home in Cleveland and living in Tremont, while John bought his grandfather's old home in Cleveland Heights. Good news: The brothers are playing again. When COVID finally disappears, find 'em and see 'em. You won't regret it. And here are some recent performances the filmed featuring Paul and John. Enjoy.

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