“I only heard of Pink Floyd a year ago.” Those shocking words came to me from the Northwest’s premier harpist, Curtis Salgado, while we were discussing the influences of Pink Anderson. “I grew up on soul and R&B,” he finishes. That explains why this blues artist ventured into cutting a CD called Soul Activated. His live shows normally include a little funk and R&B, but this CD is about the music he loves best.
To help Mr. Salgado take a trip back to the roots of blues on his fifth solo CD are The Memphis Horns, Jimmie Vaughn, and Texas blues singer Lou Ann Barton. The eleven tracks cover the map of blues, R&B, soul, and gospel. These genres culminate on the last song, “More Love Less Attitude,” into a rock-based groove — of course. Also appearing on the album are members of the current touring line-up and masterful guitarist John Wedemeyer, whose guitar licks are the only thing left standing after Curtis’ harp blowing.
The opening track, “Old Enough To Know Better,” contains some fancy guitar work and great rhythm, but it does sound as though Curtis is forcing his voice to sound rougher than needed in order to achieve a more “soulful” sound. On Leon Russell’s “I’d Rather Be Blind,” he continues using that forced vocalization, but on this song, it kind of works. Using a gospel arrangement complete with back-up singers acting as a choir to Curtis’ preaching, that forced, black voice fits right in.
By “Portable Man,” Curtis’ naturally smooth vocals return as he gets back to a bluesy sound replete with a harmonica solo showing us why he’s king of the harp in the Northwest. “Summertime Life” is the first originally written song reached on this CD. This cool and breezy song brings in The Memphis Horns, and keeps the good time feeling flowing through to Jimmy Cliff•s “The Harder They Come”.
The blues return with “I Sleep With the TV On,” another Salgado original. The instrumental “Lip Whippin” is a jump blues steamer featuring some boiling hot harmonica, piano, and upright bass. “Funnyman” is the last of the original songs, packed with a Caribbean riff about losing your girl to another man you consider your lesser.
Curtis mixes the arrangements with the Daryl Hall-penned Paul Young hit “Everytime You Go Away” to turn this top 40 number into Delta style blues. “Hip Hip Baby” featuring the vocals of Lou Ann Barton becomes an Eddie Cochran rockabilly classic and “More Love Less Attitude” has a rock beat base to close out the CD.
Proving that he can move smoothly in R&B and soul then return to blues and American rock, Soul Activated tours through the streets of black American music and lands you safely at your front door. With Mr. Salgado as your eleven-song tour guide, you get your history and entertainment in one package.