“I was on the island of Guam when Covid-19 had really hit the USA — March 11,” Curtis Salgado remembered. He was performing with guitarist Alan Hager for a gig they’d accepted in February.
“It didn’t take a rocket scientist to realize that everything was going to stop,” he said.
As the crisis unfolded, Salgado said he realized some of the songs on his new record were relevant to what was happening. He shared this with Hager, who responded: “Curtis, you’re now the Nostradamus of the Blues.”
“This is an Accident,” Salgado stressed.
While the songs may seem to speak to the events happening today, “the songs are pertaining to me,” Salgado said in an email interview.
“Because I’m in my 60s and with all the politics and the media pounding us every day, with the shenanigans of our [former] president. Plus the Internet, Facebook and the division of our country, etc., etc. It was already crazy before the pandemic. It was the perfect storm brewing.”
“Life is Damage Control,” he explained. “Life is Finite. Better grab it Now. That’s where I was coming from, and now it’s all so surreal.”
The name of the new disc, which dropped at the end of February but was actually completed in 2019, is Damage Control.
“Alligator Records scheduled it to be released on June 26, 2020. I was looking forward to coming out and being on the road to support it. Hell, yes! Let’s party!!! Damage Control has been on the shelf for a full year…Ouch!!!,” Salgado continued.
“I started writing songs for it in 2017,” Salgado noted. “I write stuff all the time, so some of the songs have been sitting on the shelf for a while. One of them, called ‘Hail Mighty Caesar,’ I wrote back in the 1990s.”
That track is a zydeco-inflected romp. Another song, “Always Say I Love You (At The End of Your Goodbyes),” is a soul-tinged, piano-driven ballad that contemplates the heartfelt ties between friends and the surprise of suddenly or unexpectedly losing them. (Valium) The song is made even more poignant by all of the losses so many have endured during the pandemic.
Salgado wrote or co-wrote all but one of the tunes and produced the record.
“I deliberately set out to write a rock ‘n’ roll record of all original songs. My kind of rock ‘n’ roll. And I honestly didn’t think Alligator would accept it,” Salgado said of the project. Blues label Alligator Records tends to focus on more traditional blues music. “But Bruce [Iglauer, label president] is cool and he loved it, and the staff loved it. And I’m lucky to have them back me.”
Salgado became an Alligator Records artist with his 2012 release, Soul Shot. He has been a professional musician since his teens and is a multiple Blues Music Award winner, including five wins for Soul Blues Male Artist of the year and the prestigious B.B. King Entertainer of the Year Award in 2013. See the Blues Foundation website at blues.org for more details. His roots are in soul and blues, but he takes delight in all kinds of music. A die-hard music fan and music history buff, the production of the tracks on Damage Control takes listeners on a musical road trip from soulful gospel (“The Longer That I Live”) to Louisiana rhythms (“Truth be Told”) to echoes of ‘60s harmony groups (“Oh For the Cry Eye”) to a vibey stomp (“The Fix is In”).
Salgado said he used three studios with three different rhythm sections to record the album. He started in Nashville in 2018 and moved on to San Jose and Studio City, Calif. He also did a guest artist session in Lafayette, La., with zydeco performer Wayne Toups. “Of course the musicians are the cream of the crop of America, which is why I could pull this off,” he said.
The Blues Society of Omaha’s long-running Thursday 6-9 p.m. shows continue at Stocks ‘n’ Bonds. Daddy Mac & The Flack are scheduled Thursday, March 4; Travis the Band is up Thursday, March 11. Kansas City’s Scott Moyer Band and another K.C. group, The Old No. 5s, play Thursday, March 18. The rest of March is still shaping up. Visit facebook.com/bluessocietyofomaha for updates and last-minute changes to the schedule. Looking ahead, Tim Budig Band featuring Shawn Holt are up Thursday, April 1. Singer-songwriter Randy McAllister takes the stage Thursday, April 8. He released a new disc, Paperbag Salvation, in December 2020.
The Blues Society of Omaha teams up with The Jewell for a free show Saturday, March 20, by soul-blues elder statesman Johnny Rawls. Admission is free, but to attend you must sign up for your free ticket at jewellomaha.com/shows under the Johnny Rawls show tab. There will be two shows at 6:30 and 9:30 p.m.
Lincoln’s historic Zoo Bar continues to offer Zoo Bar +Plus Patreon memberships to help support the bar during the ongoing pandemic and to offer members special perks now and in the future. Check out patreon.com/zoobar for more information. As of this writing, the Zoo has resumed its Zoo Bar House Band shows on Monday nights, currently just the first Monday of each month. For details and updates visit facebook.com/zoobarblues.
Local venues still offering live roots music include The B. Bar, facebook.com/theb.baromaha, and the previously mentioned jazz club The Jewell, jewellomaha.com. Check their websites and Facebook events listings for updates on performance offerings.