Soul bluesman/harmonica player Curtis Salgado and his lead guitarist Alan Hager decided to record an acoustic album and a fine decision it was. They’ve worked up a program of originals and newly arranged covers that’s a delight to hear. Salgado has had rather more health problems than any man should endure but he’s back, a fact celebrated in the opening “I Will Not Surrender”. Hager, who is a graduate of the Berklee School and of the New England Conservatory, brings a unique sophistication to the music. The spectre of an empty house led to some very good lyrics to make “So Near To Nowhere” another highlight. Salgado adds some fine harmonica. John Lee “Sonny Boy” Williamson & the Bluebird Beat are celebrated in Salgado’s “One Night Only”, augmented by Jim Pugh on piano and Jimi Bott on drums – fabulous. Apparently a crowd favourite, “I Want My Dog To Live Longer (The Greatest Wish)” has many more wishes that we can readily agree with. Muddy’s “I Can’t Be Satisfied” is the first cover, Salgado does a superb job on the vocal and Hager plays some stunning slide. Keith Brush on double bass and Russ Kleiner on brushes really move things along. The other Sonny Boy, Rice Miller is up next with his “Too Young To Die”, yet another highlight. Son House follows with his “Depot Blues” with Hager on acoustic, an illuminating performance. “Morning Train”, also known as “Get Right Church”, is a duet with Larhonda Steele and a rousing gospel tour de force. Elmore James gets a nod too with a sparkling arrangement of “You Got To Move”, Brush & Kleiner are back and Hager proves he’s done his homework. Salgado’s “Hell In A Handbasket” is a talking blues, with Salgado solo on boogie piano. This is a song about straightening out your life and there’s a very funny bit about meeting St. Peter at the Pearly Gates and getting rejected. Rev. Robert Wilkins’ “Long Train Blues” is a Hager vocal with some lovely harmonica and an intricate guitar part. Hager turns in an attractive solo instrumental next, “The Gift Of Robert Charles”, featuring some nice tempo changes and gorgeous slide work. Big Bill Broonzy gets the closing song, “I Want You By My Side”, a toe tapper, with Keith Brush back on double bass. You’ll find yourself listening to the vocal and getting distracted by the guitar playing and vice versa throughout, not many albums feature that much virtuosity. It looks like a lot of people agree, this album debuted at #2 on the Billboard Blues Chart.

March 2018 - Suzie Vinnick
John's Blues Picks February 2018 - Tinsley Ellis