Strong Suspicion

Curtis Salgado

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Strong Suspicion Review

by Hal Horowitz

Soul/blues/rock & roller Salgado scores again on his sixth effort and third for the Shanachie imprint. It's his longest and most consistent label affiliation in a fitful career that finally seems to be picking up steam in 2004. Like fellow veteran Delbert McClinton, the singer/harpist is not bound by a specific genre, preferring to live between the cracks. But whether he's laying a Memphis groove on his cover of the Beatles' "I'll Be Back," grinding through Bill Withers' "Who Is He (And What Is He to You)," or testifying on Leon Russell by way of Freddie King's "Help Me Through the Day," Salgado smothers this music in gobs of gospel and gutsy R&B. The drum machine that leads off "At Least I Didn't Do That" is a minor distraction on this generally rootsy album, but the song is so powerful, with its quicksilver guitar and urging vocals telling the story of a redeemed sinner, that it withstands the unnecessary percussive intrusion. Salgado goes funky on the slightly tongue-in-cheek "Money Must Think I'm Dead" ("I'm so broke now did I mention/I can't afford to pay attention"), chugging through the song like a sputtering locomotive. He also blows searing harp on the track, something he pulls out far too seldom on this album. A blistering and sexy duet with Bekka Bramlett (who sounds just like her mother, Bonnie) on "Can't Stop Lovin'" is one of the album's many high points. Slide guitarist Sonny Landreth contributes to three tunes but really burns on the title track, a greasy rocking swamp stomp that works perfectly with his gritty Southern tone. His originals are as incisive as the covers, making this another classy and potent serving of Salgado's soul gumbo.

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