The best – if not most intense – blues seem to originate from having endured real pain and suffering, helping to build an honest connection with others. While the 67-year old Washington native may hide it well, the colourful, soul-blues veteran with the big voice has come up on the other side of every medical affliction the gods can throw at him – emerging more energized, if not stronger, than ever. This also accounts for the degree of authentic soul he injects into everything he does and, after a 4-year hiatus (if that’s what you can call it), Damage Control adds a dozen originals and a cover of Larry Williams’ rockin’ “Slow Down”, popularized by The Beatles. Salgado may account for the bulk of the boisterous firepower that drives this release, yet his choice of players doesn’t hurt -– an important ingredient to his rock-blues, -R&B-charged assault. Credit is shared with Kid Andersen (guitar), Jim Pugh (piano) and Mike Finnigan (organ) and a rotating cast, including guitarists, George Marinelli, David Gross and Johnny Lee Schell, piano ace Kevin McKendree and phenomenal backup vocals from She-Sounds-Like-Three-People, Karen Moten. Scan the baker’s dozen song list and, while the titles may sound a mite morbid and depressing, many were likely penned somewhere between a liver and lung cancer diagnosis or a heart attack. Can you blame him? But the remarkable, not-so-secret factor behind the success of Damage Control is that Salgado remains undaunted by his challenges and, his sense of humour clearly intact, he delivers one of the strongest performances of his career. Having looked at life from both sides, he’s gained a learnéd, positive perspective on life and spreads his dark-yet-jubilant joy across these largely self-penned confessionals.
Consider the hellfire explosion behind “The Longer That I Live” – as Finnigan and Andersen elevate their games to match Salgado’s ferocity. Slowed down, “What Did Me In Did Me Well”, has no less scorch, benefiting from the double caress of Finnigan’s B3 and Pugh’s piano, featuring Salgado’s too-rare harmonica. An album highlight is the hard-hitting, honky-tonkin’ “You’re Going To Miss My Sorry Ass” – with Pugh’s pulverizing piano joining uncredited B3 as the song’s final minute slows things down to underline its passionate – and hilarious – conclusion. The show-stopper that follows is the disc’s brightest moment: “Precious Time”. Credit Marinelli’s intoxicating slide guitar and Karen Moten’s angelic wall of backup singing on this most serious observation, as Salgado unleashes his deepest hooks on a highly infectious song. Cue “Always Say I Love You (At The End Of Your Goodbyes)” as the smooth-soul, power-punch of Salgado’s vocal joins Jackie Miclau’s piano, Finnigan’s B3 and Moten’s rich backup vocal for a rich gospel statement of an important life lesson. The mood shifts with a N’awlins twist on a horn-laden “Hail Mighty Caesar”, with an animated nod to the good Doctor while the equally funky, piano-driven “I Don’t Do That No More” adds a tougher, Stones-ish guitar presence from Marinelli. Finnigan’s beautiful piano intro to the comparably lazy, laidback title track shifts gears again as Salgado ponders man’s fate, with thoughtful guitar accompaniment from Johnny Lee Schell and Dave Gross as Jim Pugh levels on the B3. “Truth Be Told” adds fiery zydeco energy to the mix while
“The Fix Is In” gets serious in its tale of greed, set against Jerry Jemmott’s playful bassline, Salgado’s colourful harp and Kevin Hayes’ spirited backbeat. “Slow Down” is simply a fun release – a rock’n’roll classic driven by McKendree’s pounding keys as a 3-man barrage of saxophones elicits yet another of Salgado’s best-ever vocals. It’s also proof-positive that Salgado is no mere survivor. He is, instead, a beacon of man’s ability to overcome adversity and transform it into something quite uplifting, if not spectacular. (Eric Thom)