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CD REVIEW -- Curtis Salgado
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The Beautiful Lowdown

Alligator Records

Curtis Salgado CD art

By Kevin Purcell

The latest CD from Curtis Salgado entitled The Beautiful Lowdown is yet another musical illustration of the talent that radiates from this classic and classy soul singer. “Classic” because he captures so perfectly the quintessential soul sound of the past, yet marries it impeccably with current themes and musicality; “Classy” because there is not a hint of malice, rudeness, unkindness, or disrespect in his lyrical content, an inspiring conviction in these times of badmouthing and discourtesy. If the music industry paid a dollar for every chunk of recognizable talent, Curtis would be a kajillionaire!! His songwriting is clever, the songs are crafted brilliantly, and the lyrics are, at different times, funny, uplifting, refreshing, adept, satirical, interesting, and revealing. The grooves are all tight and the musicians all possess the proficiency and sagacity to lay it down on the money! The production of Marlon McClain and Tony Braunagel is superb; get ready to dance in your living room.

The first song, “Hard to Feel the Same About Love,” is a sublime throwback to the old soul and Curtis sure belts it out, and the second tune, “Low Down Dirty Shame,” is a fine funky soul tune with a danceable groove. “I Know a Good Thing” is a lowdown primal blues that just tells the truth, with a fantastic use of different sounds. Song number four, “Walk a Mile in my Blues,” is a brilliant account of someone who has been through the ringer, and is simply declaring: “don’t judge me until you've been through what I have.” The lyrics are exceptional in this heartfelt and powerful, rhythmic blues number.

“Healing Love” is a soulful acoustic ballad with Curtis making his voice sound so sympathetic and tender, yet impassioned and stirring -- he really means it! Song number six, “Nothing in Particular” is my favorite song on this CD because it’s so true for so many of us; just listen to it and you'll see what I'm talking about, it’s so accurate. “Simple Enough” is a little nod to reggae while still maintaining that soul sound, and an imminently relevant message. The eighth song, “I’m Not Made That Way,” is a heroic lyrical creation wrapped in a good old soul groove, and is another testament to his brilliant lyric writing; and when he belts it out at the end, well, it’s rousing to say the least.

“Is There Something I Should Know” is a nice little gem, a beautiful blues ballad with Curtis singing a duet with none other than Danielle Nicole, formerly one-third of the Schnebelen family band, Trampled Under Foot. Danielle is a gifted singer and songwriter, as well as a fine bass player; her CDs have been found at the top of the blues charts in recent years. Not long ago, she branched out on her own and it is a surprise gift to hear her singing so soulfully alongside Curtis on this haunting number. To hear both of these luminaries singing together on the tail end of this song is a perfect finish to that simple question posed in the title.

Number ten, “My Girlfriend,” is a playful, funky, immaculate groove with awesome and jocular lyrics about laying down the law with one’s significant other! “Ring Telephone Ring” keeps the tunes rolling with a first class shuffle about hope -- that is, hope that she'll call you; there’s some mighty fine guitar work on this expertly crafted number. The CD ends with the soulful R & B groove, a cover of Johnny “Guitar” Watson’s “Hook Me Up,” where Curtis sings the praises of his girl, and he just digs in again at the end, wailing out those soulful tones intertwined with a wall of background vocals; and for icing he does a sultry harp solo just past mid-tune. Hook me up baby!!!

I'd love to hear more harp from this talented master of music, but what a pleasure to hear someone keeping the flame of soul music burning so bright. A big round of applause for the musicians on these cuts, they are all sharp, tight, and skilled. There’s a crew of great guitarists helping out: Johnny Lee Schell, Marlon McClain, Alan Hager (slide), Terry Robb (acoustic), Chris Hayes and Igor Prado. Lending their varied keyboard talents are: Mike Finnigan, Jim Pugh and Brian Harris. Bassists Larry Fulcher and James “Hutch” Hutchinson add that fat soul bottom, while Tony Braunagel and Brian Foxworth keep the drum beat to move your feet and Lenny Castro adds snappy percussion. There’s a whole choir of soulful background vocalists, as well.

A couple years back, I was fortunate to be appearing at the same blues fest as Curtis in Vegas, so when we were finished, we rushed to see his show, and let me tell you, his live shows are overflowing with soul energy, a must see!!! Thanks Curtis! 

Author Kevin Purcell is a bandleader, singer, songwriter and harmonica player with Kevin Purcell & the Nightburners and Kevin Purcell & The Root Doctors.

Curtis Salgado will appear at Chicago Blues Festival 2016 on Friday, June 10 on the Petrillo Stage as part of Alligator Records 45th Anniversary lineup.


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