Curtis Salgado – Fine By Me

Curtis Salgado’s album Fine By Me reflects the soul of American music 

Rest assured whatever songs Curtis Salgado brings to the table are going to have his personal soul stamp on them. It’s the singer’s magic bullet, the key element that stirs listeners and sets Salgado apart as one of the most riveting performers on stage today.

Fine By Me (Little Village, release date June 30, 2024) is the latest evidence of Salgado wielding his impressive songwriting and vocal skills to a wide variety of styles. His music has dashes of blues, gospel, R&B, jazz, funk, rock ’n’ roll and soul at any given moment.

“I just call it American music,” says Salgado, who produced the album and has been singing and playing harmonica in bands for five decades. “All I know how to do is write songs, sing them, and entertain people. I’ll use whatever I can to achieve that goal.”

From his days with the Robert Cray Band in the early 1980s through stint as the singer in Roomful of Blues and a long and distinguished solo career, Salgado has been known for his passionate and convincing vocals and a desire to move people. For him, it’s all about the soul.

“I really believe that gospel is the mothership of all American music. It all flows out of gospel, no matter what kind of music it is. I’ve always loved and respected that.”

Salgado also understands the power of clever turns of phrase and how that burrows into the hearts of his audience. On Fine By Me, he imaginatively paints Technicolor images with songs such as “Better Things To Lie About,” “My Girl’s A Nut,” and “You Give The Blues A Bad Name.” There are 10 songs here that Salgado wrote or co-wrote and two cover versions, but the recording shines in unexpected moments.

“Hear The Lonely Hearts” is a deep gospel song featuring Salgado’s vocals backed by the harmonies of The Sons of the Soul Revivers (brothers James, Walter and Dwayne Morgan) and the gentle guitar of Rome Yamilov with Kid Andersen on acoustic bass. Sadly, Walter Morgan passed away only weeks before Salgado’s album release.

“I love The Sons, but the minute they started singing in the studio it took my breath away,” Salgado says. “They’ve been doing this so long and their harmonies are so incredibly powerful I just looked in awe. They just know exactly how their voices work together and it’s stunning to hear that in action. It brings a whole different dimension to songs.”

A cover version of soul man O.V. Wright’s “I’m Gonna Forget About You,” harkens back to 1980 when Robert Cray recorded the song for his first album, with Salgado on supporting vocals. This time, Salgado takes the lead vocals with Cray harmonizing and singing the higher notes as well as adding sizzling guitar to the track.

And, Salgado admits that he is sometimes surprised how songs surface, One of those is the album’s title cut, which was hatched in a dream he had after reading a biography about Jackie Onassis.

“I was dreaming about having lunch with her in a New York City cafe, he says. “ I wasn’t sure what we were talking about, but then I woke up. But I tried to go back to sleep and couldn’t. But I still wanted to get back into the dream.”

Instead, he grabbed a pen and pad and started writing down lyrics for the song, which would become a cultural travelogue of imaginary visits with Onassis, Muhammed Ali, Iggy Pop and Malcolm X. He shared his lyrics with long-time Bonnie Raitt guitarist George Marinelli, who turned them into a rollicking rock song that spouts the credo to live and enjoy life as it drags you along.

With a lifetime of musical experiences, Salgado maintains a fresh approach to his music. “This is just a skill I’ve been learning,” he says. “I just go with it.”