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In Harp's Way

[whitespace] Curtis Salgado
Man Full of Blues: Curtis Salgado taught John Belushi how to be a brother.

Salgado blows while Robb picks

By Nicky Baxter

HARMONICA PLAYER Curtis Salgado is an original "Blues Brother." When the late actor John Belushi was researching his role in the movie of the same name, he ran across Salgado. Sporting midnight-black shades after sundown and shiny suits with skinny ties, Salgado had the slick look Belushi sought.

Salgado's earliest glimpse of fame came as a member of Robert Cray's outfits. With Cray holding down the guitar, Salgado blew the meanest harp this side of Mississippi. He went on to work with the notoriously hip Roomful of Blues, but he didn't come into his own until he formed Curtis Salgado & the Stilettos, whose razor-sharp Chicago-style playing caught many by surprise. More recently, Salgado has hitched his star to that of blazing guitarist Terry Robb. Though relatively unknown outside the Northwest, Robb has been playing blues-influenced music for two decades.

Hit It and Quit It (Lucky Records) is the duo's first recorded collaboration. Rather than attempt to blow listeners away with hot-wired electric blues, Salgado and Robb have laid down a clutch of acoustic tracks, most of which are covers of classics originally done by the likes of Muddy Waters, Jimmy Rodgers and Elmore James. The cuts showcase Robb on acoustic hollow-body guitar and bottleneck while Salgado bears down on harp and vocals. Salgado is a capable vocalist who has paid strict attention to the old masters. His raw, gritty singing style burns with passion, while his harmonica playing reveals a debt to Little Walter Jacobs and Big Walter Horton. On some cuts, he brays like a mule; on others, he chugs away like the midnight special northward bound. As Salgado himself concedes, he and Robb are not the second coming of Muddy and Rodgers, but they remind blues fans just how good the good old days really were.

Curtis Salgado and Terry Robb play Thursday (May 14) at 9pm at JJ's Blues, 3439 Stevens Creek Blvd., San Jose. Tickets are $8. (408/243-6441)

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From the May 14-20, 1998 issue of Metro.

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