If you think blues music and barbeque festivals are nothing more than a random combination, think again.
"Blues players like to eat barbecue," singer Albert Castiglia says. "That's just a fact. You can't be a blues man without eating barbecue."
Castiglia, then, will be in good company when the popular blues musician headlines the upcoming Wildwoods' 14th Annual New Jersey State Barbeque Championship and Anglesea Blues Festival. The grilling and the blues kick off Friday, July 13, and keep smokin' through Sunday, July 15.
The two festivals - which take place in conjunction with one another - are both located in North Wildwood at 2nd and Olde New Jersey avenues. There, BBQ teams from around the country will compete, grilling marinated ribs, chicken and pork to fight for the title of Grand Champion.
Radio stations Cat County 107.3-FM, New Jersey 101.5-FM and SoJo 104.9-FM will all be broadcasting live from the festival throughout the weekend. The Kansas City Barbeque Society and a panel of volunteers will judge the 2012 Barbecue Grand Championship on Sunday beginning at noon.
The free festival will feature a full roster of live blues acts on all three days, including a two-hour set by Castiglia, who will headline the blues festival from 7:30 to 10:30 p.m. Friday.
Castiglia, who is touring heavily to support his new album, "Living the Dream," has played at his fair share of barbecue festivals, he says. But the singer has no issue with that. Castiglia got his first taste of "real" barbecue when he first played alongside the late blues legend Junior Wells in Chicago, he says - and he never looked back.
"I got my first real taste of Chicago barbecue - rib tips - and it was the most awesome experience of my life," Castiglia says. "I think I gained 20 pounds during my five years there."
Now, Castiglia, working with producer Ben Elliott, has produced what he calls his best album since going solo in 2002, he says.
"It was a great experience," Castiglia says. "John Ginty (keyboard player) sat in and played on most of the tracks, and I think it's the best record I've ever done. Everything went well on this one."
Castiglia, who grew up in Miami, Fla., says he is heavily influenced by his blues and rock idols.
"I was never exposed to blues as a kid, until I heard a live (Eric) Clapton album that piqued my interest," Castiglia says. "That's when I started listening to B.B. King and Buddy Guy and Muddy Waters. I bought a Muddy Waters album, and that was the big revelation - it was kind of speaking to me. I was 16. I was like, 'Wow, I want to do this.' It was the rawness of the record.
"I grew up in the '80s. This (sound) was so … not that. I think I'm influenced by everything that's ever given me goosebumps. You know, the blues is the foundation, but I'm also influenced by rock and jazz and country."
As for the upcoming blues festival, Castiglia says fans can expect a high-energy show.
"It will be high energy, because that's the way we roll," Castiglia says. "We don't hold back. I don't slack off. It's going to be a fun show, I hope. I'm going to give it my all. We're kind of a little edgier and a little more contemporary."