Preview Rough Cut by Curtis Salgado & Alan Hager.
Rough Cut by Curtis Salgado & Alan Hager
Former Albert Collins Blues sideman, Debbie Davies, once sang:
“Hard life and trouble made my life a wreck,
Woke up to find Lady Luck had stacked the deck,
Deal with it”
Typical Blues lyrics? Well maybe but we could be talking about bluesman Curtis Salgado. After coping with a liver transplant and cancer then 2017 saw a quadruple bypass in order to, literally, keep his act on the road. Being on the road includes history as a vocalist with Robert Cray and Santana plus ten releases under his own name. The hackneyed phrase that ‘you can’t keep a good man down’ deserves dusting off as Salgado releases Rough Cut with outstanding guitarist Alan Hager. He’s so superb in fact that Salgado has been quoted as saying “one reason I made a record with him was to show him off!”
This latest collaboration sees the duo release a stripped down album that they jointly produced. Out of the 13 songs six are originals. Given the recent health issues then it comes as no surprise to start with “I Will Not Surrender”. Salgado’s melancholy voice of equal parts Blues and Soul, but a little frayed, tells you that he’s not going anywhere soon as the guitar hits a throbbing rhythm behind him. Hager picks some deft motifs creating a haunting and powerful atmosphere. An impactful start. This is going to be good…
In fact it all continues to be fabulous. Another original of “So Near To Nowhere” is more acoustic and Salgado sings “I’m asking God why I ain’t dead yet? I warned you boy but you don’t listen, The devil don’t want the competition.” In between verses he wields his harmonica with sublime solos.
If the originals are expertly constructed and captivatingly despatched then the covers of icons such as Muddy Waters, Elmore James, Son House and Sonny Boy Williamson get faithful and engaging treatments. The traditional Blues standard “Morning Train” sees LaRhonda Steele join Salgado backing his vocals with her sonorous gospel phrasing and tones. This additional voice elevates the song and demonstrates the breadth of styles on the whole album with its varied textures and pace.
My favourite vocal is on “Depot Blues” with acoustic guitar. I was placed on Highway 61 deep in the Delta. Salgado’s “gonna miss rollin’ in my sweet baby’s arms” as the train pulls out of the station. Son House would have approved.
Aside from the variety of the sound then there are some intelligent observational moments of humor. Not least with “Hell In A Handbasket”. This rueful reflection on modern life is a 21st Century Fats Waller pastiche. Not only does Salgado tickle the ivories but we get the amusing talking vocal that was a Waller signature.
As you’d expect then Salgado and Hager hit their stride decades ago, this wonderful album demonstrates their complete telepathy where nothing is forced, harsh or less than immaculate. Don’t believe the title of the album! Alligator Records have another triumph on their hands.