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Stands By His Music

By Shannon D. Love

Written in 1995

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Picture yourself standing in a room as a young lad, casting your eyes to a stage where live music is being presented. As you stand there, your heartbeat increases, your hands start to perspire... within moments, it's as if you're the only one in the room. Your eyes are locked onto the vocalist. Your heart is pumping rapidly. Your shirt is wet, pressing like suction against your body. Sweat begins to bead on your forehead, and your chest begins to heave like a slow expanding helium balloon. And then you realize you're breathing, you're taking long breaths from the bottom of your soul and your whole body is erupting, shaking. As you picture yourself on that stage, you know that someday you will up there. You look around the room, wondering if you're the only one feeling the music so deeply. And then you realize, this is a special moment, and destiny is calling you. A musician is born.

Curtis Salgado was taken by the music at a very young age. He recalls singing his whole life -- there was never a doubt of what he would become, a performer. As a teenager, gospel and blues became a main influence for Curtis, and would become his anchor from which he later would derive all his inspirations. After discovering blues albums, such as Little Walter, Curtis concentrated on the harmonica as a focal point of his performance. Much to the satisfaction of all, Curtis was soon regarded as one of the finest harmonica players.

Curtis experienced many ups and downs throughout his career, perhaps more downs than ups. But it's the burning desire that resides in his soul that has given him strength to continue to look forward, dust off the dust, disregard the criticism and forge onward to the present and build on the future; a future where he can compose music that lifts his heart and touches the masses; a future where he can fuse gospel, blues, soul, funk and hip-hop all into one -- no titles, no boxes, just the music, music that answers for itself.

Is there a category for this form of music? And if so, why? Curtis had a thought on this subject. "Critics lay out rules, and they want to package you and they want to put you in a category. They want to say, 'you play this, and you play that', so in essence, they limit your abilities to grow as an artist." It truly is in our human nature to finalize the unknown, to explain, to control our thoughts to a rational outcome. Should music be any different? Curtis states, "Quit thinking about all that garb. Tap your foot, and have a good time! As they say in Africa, 'eat some red peppers, forget about your troubles and dance...'."

In looking to our past for possible insight to our future, there are many examples that exemplify individuals that followed their hearts, and not the harsh criticism that derailed many a fine musician's artistic abilities. Glen Miller comes to mind as one. Miller was looked upon as foolish for having so many trombone players in his band, and it was suggested to him that the smart dollar would be to stick with the norm, and not to try to reinvent the wheel. Miller's music was not regarded as a traditional style of music. But Miller had a vision of a fresh new music that utilized all that he felt in his heart and all that he had experienced. The result proved to be quite successful. Did Miller follow the rules that were set upon him by his peers? NO! And let's all be glad that he did not.

Curtis describes his new CD, More Than You Can Chew, on the Rhythm Safari label as "Pentecostal Delta Funk Punk". Curtis describes it this way, "As I start finding my voice, I'm also finding my music for what I am about. It's kind of like, for example, what if Blues legend, Robert Johnson joined up with, Tony Tony Tony. And I don't mean the superficial cliché' blues licks. I mean the real stuff. I like the little nuances -- the little idiosyncrasies of all the great guitar players and blues piano players and singers -- the idiosyncrasies of Skip James and Charlie Patton and a lot of those cats. So, I am trying to superimpose all that over hip hop and funk which I love. I am the biggest Parliament fan, biggest Prince fan. I love the attitude of heavy metal. I don't like all music, but I like all the genres. I like alternative, some of it. I like some of the blues, I don't like all blues, I don't like all funk, I like a little of everything! I'm not trying to reach a certain crowd. It's just what I like. I liked Curt Cobain. I remember when they came through town, and I remember thinking, this guy's got a certain little melody line that just digs into your head -- it just grows on you. Now, Cobain was not a great musician or anything like that, but as far as coming out with some emotion and pulling from his soul, that's what I am after!"

Marlin McClain who has known Curtis for the last ten years, and has been working together with him for the last five years, describes the change in Curtis. "Curtis is naturally letting things come out of him, that just come out of his heart. There's no master game-plan at hand what so ever. Curtis is purely coming from his heart, and I think it shows." McClain said they have been focusing on Curtis' singing abilities, concentrating more on his voice as the focal point for the band. Backstage at the Waterfront Blues Festival in Portland this year, I was watching the TV monitor of Curtis' performance, and I was standing next to Blues diva, Linda Hornbuckle. I overheard Linda telling her husband about Curtis' performance. "Man, Curtis has been really working, and it shows. That stint with Santana really paid off for him." I asked Linda what she meant by saying, "Curtis has been working". Linda told me his whole delivery and confidence levels were up, and he was not the same Curtis she remembered. Linda said Curtis' singing was more polished now and she thought that was a good thing.

And I have to agree. I was thoroughly impressed with the new Curtis Salgado. I think anytime that you pull from your heart and soul, only good things can happen. It's a special gift for the ones who can truly tap into their own inner feelings, to trust them, let them flourish and to truly believe in themselves, and not look back and question. This is not always as easy as it sounds. The great ones have this ability, and this ability is deep within your soul. It's the timing in your life -- when you're ready to listen, and understand what you're hearing. I know this sounds cosmic, and is way up there in the stars. But that's why we call them stars, and I think Curtis is finding his own star.

©Copyright 1995 -- 2008 Jet City Blues Review

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