Monday, February 15, 2021

Curtis Salgado - Damage Control

Oh yeah.  Count me in.  From the moment that opening track ‘The Longer That I Live’ hoves into earshot, Damage Control is the real deal.  It bobs along, piano, organ and guitar all dovetailing perfectly with little licks and remarks, over an easy-going, toe-tapping rhythm.  It sounds like these guys are having fun, and I certainly am.  There’s a twangy little solo from Kid Andersen, and a witty organ counterpart from Mike Finnigan, and throughout it all Curtis Salgado delivers a spot-on, expressive vocal about getting the most out of life.  Given that this is a guy who’s overcome two different bouts of cancer, and come through big time heart surgery, I kinda think he means it.
There’s a timeless quality to this stuff, like Salgado and his co-conspirators have uncovered a
"Play me some blues, Curtis!"
Pic by Marilyn Stringer
treasure trove of rock’n’roll, rhythm’n’blues and soul – and other stuff from the popular music lexicon.
Tracks like the Tex-Mex ‘Count Of Three’, ‘I Don’t Do That No More’ and the closing ‘Slow Down’ carry echoes of Delbert McClinton – wry and knowing both lyrically and musically.  ‘I Don’t Do That No More’ is piano-led boogie, with Kevin McKendree tickling the ivories on this occasion, as Salgado delivers a paean to clean living but insists life can still be a breeze.  And Larry Williams' ‘Slow Down’ (also raved up by The Beatles) is even better, with a shuffling groove underlined by horns, more honky tonk from McKendree and twangy rock’n’roll guitar from Bonnie Raitt accomplice George Marinelli, while Salgado gets his gnashers around some tongue-twisting phrases and even hints at Jerry Lee Lewis with some shivering delivery.
‘You’re Going To Miss My Sorry Ass’ may not quite have the chorus to live up to its title, but it’s still a crackling slice of rock’n’roll akin to John Hiatt’s ‘Tennessee Plates’, with more barrelhouse piano, warm acoustic bass from Mark Winchester, and mood-catching backing vocals from Johnny Lee Schnell.  Meanwhile ‘Hail Mighty Caesar’ is a N’Awlins-inflected take on the story of Caesar, Cleopatra and Mark Anthony.  It’s a hoot, but don’t rely on it if you’re revising for a History exam.  Instead, lay back and enjoy the witty, Latin-tinged piano courtesy of Jim Pugh, the subtle guitar and acoustic bass from Kid Andersen, while horns bring a second line funk feel to proceedings, and Salgado throws in some shoutalong backing vocals to underline the party vibe.
The variety is enhanced by ‘Oh For The Cry Eye’, all simple, swingin’ rhythm from Tony Braunagel on drums, tooting organ, and jazzy backing vocals from Wendy Moten as they cook up a bit of a Randy Newman feel.  And there’s also room for a touch of zydeco on ‘Truth Be Told’, a neat little toon that rattles along nicely as Salgado duets with Wayne Toups, who also adds cajun squeezebox over a snappy, Diddley-ish beat.  Meanwhile ‘The Fix Is In’ is downbeat funkiness, cruising along on a slowed-down ‘Billie Jean’-like bass line as Salgado delivers some cold-eyed social commentary on modern corruption.  “Somebody play me the blues!” he calls out in response, before delivering a sharp harmonica solo.
One of the very best things on the album though, is the slow-ish soul of ‘Always Say I Love You (At The End Of Your Goodbyes)’, with Salgado’s whole-hearted vocal nailing the emotional lyric about never knowing if you’ll get another chance to tell people you care about that you love them.
The songwriter comparisons and supporting cast I’ve referenced will tell you a lot of what you need to know about this album.  But in the end it’s Curtis Salgado’s engaging voice that really brings home the bacon, full of personality and conviction, really owning these songs.  Maybe a few of the thirteen tracks on could have been stronger, but that’s taking us deep into quibble territory.  Damage Control is a damn fine, irresistibly listenable, enjoyable, likeable album.  Count me in.
Damage Control is released on 26 February on Alligator Records.

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