Curtis Salgado

Soul Shot

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Some well documented and extremely serious health issues might have slowed journeyman soul singer/harpist Curtis Salgado down for a while, but 2008's Clean Getaway was proof that he had bounced back with little audible change in energy or intensity. Perhaps the near death experience even added some urgency and edge to a soul man who never really lacked for either. Salgado must have been (rightly) pleased with the results of that recording, because he calls many of the same players to assist on the follow-up four years later. Drummer/co-producer Tony Braunagel gets the sound right, with dollops of horns and fellow Phantom Blues Band member Mike Finnegan's organ prominent in the mix. It's perhaps a little slick in places but Salgado is never less than totally committed to the material which, with seven covers -- most relatively obscure -- and four originals, is uniformly top shelf. He digs down to unearth "Baby, Let Me Take You in My Arms," a lost gem from the Detroit Emeralds and Johnny Guitar Watson's ballad "Strung Out," a deep album track. Any soul singer who even attempts an Otis Redding tune better have the goods, but Salgado belts out the Big O's "Love Man," keeping the greasy groove and boasting all the confidence and swagger the lyrics convey. Despite being a terrific harp player, the frontman generally features his talents on it only a few times per album. On this one it's for his "She Didn't Cut Me Loose," a bubbling slice of Watson-style funk, complete with timbales, that hits a bubbly groove and rides it for four glorious minutes you wish would go on twice as long. He also rescues George Clinton's little remembered "Gettin' to Know You" from Parliament's 1976's nearly forgotten The Clones of Dr. Funkenstein. It's a terrific find and perfect for Salgado to transform into a peppy R&B scorcher, helped by gospel backing vocals and his Paul Butterfield-styled harp solo. Speaking of church, the album-closing "A Woman or the Blues" brings the religion that's always close to the surface in Salgado's approach. It's featured here in a rollicking burner that wraps this terrific set in an upbeat, animated performance that, like the best albums, leaves you wanting more.

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