Wednesday, March 14, 2018

Alligator Records artist: Curtis Salgado & Alan Hager – Rough Cut - New release review - Stilladog - Guest Writer

Driving home from work the other day I heard a song called “I Want My Dog To Live Longer” on the Bluesville channel on Sirius XM. It was done by Curtis Salgado & Alan Hager. I know Curtis and have seen him play a number of times but I did not know Alan who is a guitarist from Portland, OR where Curtis lives also. These two have played together off and on for quite a number of years. So now that Alan is the guitarist for Curtis’ road band I guess they figured the time was right. So it’s here and it’s called Rough Cut. Based on that one track I had to check it out. Once I heard it I had to tell Bman how much I liked it and he asked me to review it.
The album starts off with a very John Lee Hooker sounding track entitled “I Will Not Surrender.” This is a very personal blues written by Salgado. You can almost feel him fighting death as he sings. He’s survived liver cancer, lung cancer (twice), addiction, and quadruple bypass surgery. So he knows about not surrendering. A great opener for the album which turns out to be far from the blue-eyed soul Cutis is known for. This is definitely traditional blues, originals and covers both.
On the second track, “So Near To Nowhere,” Salgado breaks out his harp for the first time and the best lyrics on the album. “I’m asking God why I ain’t dead yet. He said, I warned ya boy but you never listen. The devil don’t want the competition.”
It’s mostly just a duo with Hager on guitar, Salgado on harp and vocals, although Curtis plays piano on one track. A few others have minimal accompaniment but otherwise it’s just two friends playing blues.
The duo cover a number of Blues classics such as Muddy Water’s I Can’t Be Satisfied which gets the country blues slide treatment from Hager which is strong in its own right and complements Salgado’s vocals perfectly. This theme repeats itself with many of the other covers such as Depot Blues by Son House and Long Train Blues by Robert Wilkins which is strong on harp as well.
The cover songs are absolutely great and also include Sonny Boy Williamson’s “Too Young To Die,” Big Bill Broonzy’s “I Want You By My Side,” and Elmore James’ version (not the Mississippi Fred McDowell one) of “You Got To Move” which contains some awesome Elmo slide by Hager. The tune entitled “Morning Train” is also commonly known as “Get Right Church,” and may be the strongest cover on the album.
Which brings us back around to “I Want My Dog To Live Longer.” This song touches the heart of anybody who ever had, or has, a faithful canine companion. I can’t say it’s my favorite song on the record but it is obvious that Curtis Salgado and I see eye to eye on what enrichment dogs bring into our lives.
That all said, I really think this is going to be one of the overall strongest blues albums of 2018. The blend of originals and covers is a perfect balance. No flash guitar, no hot horns, just solid blues music which is not so easy to come by these days. It may be a Rough Cut but it is smoothly done.

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