Curtis Salgado – Damage Control
Alligator Records – 2021
13 tracks; 52 minutes
After a stripped-back duo album last time round (2018’s Rough Cut with Alan Hager) Curtis returns to a full band sound on a collection that covers all the bases – blues, soul, gospel and Rn’B. The album was recorded in three different studios, with three different sets of musicians, many familiar names to blues fans.
Five tracks were laid down at Kevin McKendree’s Rock House studio in Nashville, TN, with Kevin on keys, George Marinelli on guitar, Tommy McDonald on bass, Mark Winchester on acoustic bass, Jack Bruno on drums and Wendy Moten and JT Lauritsen on backing vocals. Four cuts come from Kid Andersen’s Greaseland studio in San José, CA with Kid on guitar, Mike Finnigan on organ, Jim Pugh on piano, Jerry Jemmott on bass and Kevin Hayes on drums. Four tracks were recorded at Johnny Lee Schell’s Ultratone studio, CA, with Johnny on guitar, Mike Finnigan, Jim Pugh and Jerry Jemmott again involved, plus Jackie Miclau on piano and Tony Braunagel on drums.
Other musicians involved include guitarists Dave Gross and Alan Hager and a three man sax section of Gary Harris and Michael Bard on tenor and Tim Bryson on baritone add to two tracks, their contributions recorded at a studio in Portland, OR, Curtis’ home base. That is certainly a huge cast list but the music is seamless and it is really only by looking at the credits that you can tell where any of the material was recorded.
The songs are all original bar one, Curtis writing with a wide range of collaborators: Vyasa Dodson, Mike Finnigan, Alan Hager and Dave Duncan are familiar co-writers with Curtis but there are also credits for Kevin McKendree, George Marinelli and Jackie Miclau, amongst others.
Curtis has one of the best voices in contemporary blues and soul and really testifies on “The Longer That I Live”, gospel-infused piano and organ to the fore on a song to which every ageing music fan will definitely relate: “When I go I’ll be screaming, hey, I ain’t finished yet”! The soulful “What Did Me In Did Me Well” is one of just two tracks on which Curtis plays harmonica, here in high-register, Stevie Wonder style.
“Oh For The Cry Eye” is a mash-up of gospel and jazz with Jackie Miclau’s ragtime piano set against Mike Finnigan’s churchy organ, Wendy Moten featuring on co-vocals with Curtis. We get rocking piano (from Kevin McKendree and Jim Pugh respectively) on “You’re Gonna Miss My Sorry Ass” and “Count Of Three” while the incredibly catchy “Precious Time” has intense slide guitar built round a wonderful hook. In the gospel-infused ballad “Always Say I Love You (At The End Of Your Goodbyes)” Curtis mourns the passing of a friend and sings emotionally about how you must always speak up so you don’t regret missing the moment. Curtis casts a critical eye at corporate greed and political failures, sounding quite angry as he semi-speaks the lyrics of “The Fix Is In” and blows his harp intensely in his solo.
“I Don’t Do That No More” is an apt statement for a recovering addict and this roadhouse rocker barrels along with more strong piano while the title track “Damage Control” is a mid-paced Rn’B number that proposes that we should deal with problems as they arise, rather than bottling them up for later.
Curtis also turns his hand to zydeco on “Truth Be Told”, joined by Wayne Toups on squeezebox and duet vocals. Two tracks feature the horns: a barnstorming take on the Larry Williams rocker “Slow Down”, the sole cover on the set, makes an excellent choice to close the album: combining lyrics about ancient history with New Orleans rhythms, “Hail Mighty Caesar” is completely infectious and you will find yourself singing the chorus long after the CD has finished playing!
Curtis Salgado is a terrific singer and this is one of his strongest albums to date, so naturally gets a strong recommendation from this reviewer.