Curtis Salgado – The Beautiful Lowdown
Alligator Records AL4970
12 songs – 48 minutes
Curtis Salgado delivers another masterpiece in soul-blues with the release of The Beautiful Lowdown, his second effort for Chicago powerhouse Alligator Records after overcoming another health crisis that would have sidelined a lesser man.
Already a liver transplant recipient after a bout with cancer in 2006, he was diagnosed with lung cancer in 2012, a few months after the release of Soul Shot, his Alligator debut, which earned Blues Music Awards for Entertainer Of The Year and Soul Blues Artist and Album Of The Year. During recovery from the new surgery, he battled back by songwriting, and this album, which contains 11 originals and one cover, is the result.
Produced by drummer Tony Braunagel and recorded primarily at guitarist/bandmate Johnny Lee Schell’s Ultratone Studios in California, it features a dazzling performance by Curtis’ regular touring band, members (like Braunagel and Schell) of the Phantom Blues Band/Taj Mahal Band and several other top musicians.
A gifted harmonica player in addition to possessing one of the most soulful voices in the history of American music, Salgado is at his best here. He’s far more than a survivor in a life with many ups and downs. It’s well-documented that John Belushi used him and his wild lifestyle as his model for the character he created in the Blues Brothers, even dedicating their first LP to the Washington state native. They met in Eugene, Ore., during the filming of Animal House when Curtis was working with Robert Cray, and Delgado literally introduced the native Chicagoan to the blues.
Despite personal torment, Curtis shows no weakness here as he delivers some of his best, beautifully bittersweet and introspective material yet on this album, which is nominated for Soul Blues Album Of The Year in the BluesBlast Awards. He’s also nominated once again for Male Blues Artist Of The Year.
He’s backed on guitar by Vyasa Dotson as well as co-producers Marlon McClain and Schell, Alan Hager, Terry Robb, Chris Hayes and Igor Prado. Keyboards are handled by Mike Finnigan, Jim Pugh and Brian Harris with a rhythm section composed of bassists Tracy Arrington, Larry Fulcher and James “Hutch” Hutchinson and percussionists Brian Foxworth, Braunagel and Lenny Castro. Lewis Livermore and Dave Mills (trumpet), Gary Harris and Tim Bryson (saxophone) and Lars Campbell (trombone) compose the horn section with Tippa Lee and Danielle Schnebelen providing guest vocals. Margaret Linn, LaRhonda Steele, Erica Warren and Tony Ozier add backing vocals.
Curtis recalls a chance meeting with his first love in “Hard To Feel The Same About Love” to kick off the action. Not only did she teach him about romance, but she was also responsible for breaking his heart and schooling him in the blues. His rich, melismatic tenor soars as he delivers an ocean of emotion with every word. “Low Down Dirty Shame” is a medium-tempo blues about the tragedy that will result if the object of his affection refuses to stay at his side.
The syncopated “I Know A Good Thing” has a country-blues feel as it relates an incident when “I wasn’t looking for love/Love was looking for me.” Next up, my favorite song in the set, “Walk A Mile In My Blues,” instructs folks to understand everything the singer’s been through – including losing a brother to the needle and a woman to her best friend — before criticizing the way he is today. The ballad “Healing Love” sings praise to a lady who lifted him up when he thought he’d always be alone while the sweet “Nothing In Particular (Little Bit Of Everything)” imparts the realization that happiness comes from within not through potential out-of-reach possessions.
“Simple Enough” relies on reggae beat and a vocal assist from Jamaican dancehall superstar Lee as it suggests choosing your battles wisely while “I’m Not Made That Way” is a straight-ahead message about being greedy. The mood slows for the romantic ballad “Is There Something I Should Know,” a pleasing duet with fellow BluesBlast Award nominee Schnebelen, the Trampled Under Foot beauty who now tours on her own as Danielle Nicole. The rap “My Girlfriend” — a complaint about a woman who acts more like a wife, “Ring Telephone Ring” – a plea for a new lady to call — and Johnny “Guitar” Watson’s “Hook Me Up” – the only cover on the album – conclude the set.
Curtis Salgado is a national treasure as The Beautiful Lowdown clearly demonstrates once again. Available through all major retailers, it’s a winner on all fronts. Pick it up today. You won’t be disappointed.