Despite the onset of winter wind and rain, North Coast music fans will have plenty to cheer about with the arrival of November. Award-winning vocalist and harmonica master Curtis Salgado will bring his high-energy soul and blues to the Coaster Theatre in Cannon Beach at 7:30 p.m. Saturday, Nov. 3 as part of the annual Stormy Weather Arts Festival. The 2012 Soul Blues Artist of the Year, Salgado treats every show like the biggest night of his life and breathes enough fire into his songs to make audiences forget the heavy winter doldrums.
Growing up in Eugene, Salgado was exposed to music at an early age. After seeing a Count Basie performance at age 13, Salgado knew he would devote his life to music. He taught himself to play the harmonica, finding inspiration in the music of Paul Butterfield and Little Walter. By 16, Salgado’s music was making an impression with his numerous gigs in the Eugene bar circuit. Forming the band The Nighthawks, Salgado became the must-see act, his reputation spreading throughout the Northwest.
In the 1970s, two events took place that put Salgado permanently on the blues and soul music map. In 1973, he met future guitar legend Robert Cray and the two became fast friends. Over the ensuing years, the two would share the stage countless times; they even joined forces in the Robert Cray Band. This exposure allowed Salgado to share the stage with such musical dignitaries as Bonnie Raitt and Muddy Waters.
In 1977, Salgado formed a friendship with actor John Belushi, who was in Eugene filming “Animal House.” Belushi caught one of Salgado’s live performances and was so taken with his energy and style, he developed an idea for “The Blues Brothers,” first on Saturday Night Live and then as a feature film. Picking Salgado’s brain, Belushi patterned his character Joliet Jake on Salgado’s style and mannerisms. He dedicated the Blues Brothers album “Briefcase Full of Blues” to Salgado in appreciation of his help.
Parting ways with the Robert Cray Band, Salgado went on to front Roomful of Blues and Curtis Salgado and the Stilettos before releasing his first solo record in 1991. As the years went by, Salgado found himself on stage with the likes of The Steve Miller Band and Carlos Santana, honing his craft and ratcheting up the energy of each gig.
Now, Salgado is devoting his legendary energy to promoting his new album, “Soul Shot.” The recent leg of the tour included venues in Chicago and Kansas City. Back home, he is looking forward to the intimate setting of the Coaster Theatre. “Smaller venues are a perfect place to hear us,” Salgado said. “Audiences really get a chance to feel the new record.”
Released in April 2012, “Soul Shot” is a blistering set of eight soul and R&B covers and four originals penned by Salgado. Blues Revue recently called the album “triumphant, joyful blues-soaked R&B ... one of the most soulful, honest singers ever.”
The covers feature Salgado’s high-energy style, including Otis Redding’s “Love Man.” They also showcase his smooth, soulful range, such as in Johnny “Guitar” Watson’s “Strung Out.” The original tracks remind listeners of Salgado’s vast talent not only as a vocalist but also as a harmonica icon. Salgado cuts loose on the harp like a man possessed on “He Played His Harmonica.”
Salgado is proud of the direction of the new record’s eclectic mix. “I really wanted to make a dance record, something that would make everyone get up and move,” he said. “I’ve always been good at picking out songs no one else would do, songs that aren’t generic. ‘Nobody But You’ by Charles Hodges can only be found on 45.”
“Soul Shot” marks Salgado’s debut with a new label, Alligator Records. “Alligator Records is the oldest of the ‘roots labels,’” Salgado said. Celebrating 40 years in 2011, Alligator Records is the largest independent blues label. Revered artists such as Buddy Guy and Johnny Winter have worked with Alligator, making it the perfect fit for Salgado. “I’m thrilled to be a part of the Alligator family,” he said. “They appreciate hard work and return the favor.”
The new album and tour continues a personal comeback for Salgado, who has been battling cancer since 2008. Despite the roller coaster of health issues, Salgado has no plans to give up recording and touring. “I’ve got a clean bill of health, and I’m taking it one day at a time,” he said. “My voice feels great, and until they come and drag me off the stage, I’m going to keep performing. It’s the only thing I know.”