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Curtis Salgado: The Beautiful Lowdown

Curtis Salgado, the beautiful lowdown, blues, jazz, harmonica, michael bourne

If you look up Curtis Salgado in the AllMusic guide, his ”styles” are listed as “Modern Electric Blues” and “Retro Soul,” but when he’s singing and harping, you always can hear plenty more happening stylistically. He’s funky. He’s rocking. He’s romantic. He’s funny. Curtis Salgado stylizes all of the above on his new Alligator album, The Beautiful Lowdown.

He’s been playing all across the bluesical spectrum for 40+ years. Salgado grew up in Eugene, Oregon, and his musical history usually begins in 1977, remembering when the movie Animal House was filming there. Salgado became a friend and blues mentor to John Belushi — whose character “Joliet Jake” Blues evolved from hanging with and learning from Curtis. Salgado, as a performer himself, was a co-leader of the first Robert Cray Band. In the early 80’s, he sang with Roomful of Blues. In the early 90’s, he sang with Santana. And with his own groups, his musical DNA always has shown through brightly. On the harmonica, Little Walter and Paul Butterfield. As a singer, Otis Redding and Bobby Bland. And as musically tough as he’s been, he’s been also personally tough. Over the last decade, he’s beaten liver cancer and then (twice!) lung cancer. When, on the new album, Curtis sings “Walk a Mile In My Blues,” you know he’s singing about a life that’s been hardy and hearty.

All but one of the songs on The Beautiful Lowdown were written by or with Salgado. Whimsical songs about love. And deeper songs about love — or the loss thereof. Songs about looking for the lost love. About a love that’s healing. About a love that’s a pain in the ass. And however loving life is — or is not — in the end, with a classic song of Johnny Guitar Watson, Curtis nonetheless pleads “Hook Me Up!”

Michael Bourne

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