Album review, Mama's Hometown, The Celso Salim Band, Rock and Blues Muse

By Tom O’Connor

Brazilian guitarist, Celso Salim continues to channel the soul of American Blues with his namesake band in his new and truly inspiring album, Mama’s Hometown, due for release on September 28 thfrom Wide Track Records. There are a lot of reasons why Salim is a multi-award winning musician and widely acknowledged Blues master on both sides of the equator, and you’ll find plenty of them on this almost too short nine-song collection. The album is produced by Mike Hightower and Celso Salim.

Album opener, “Mad Dog” comes correct with a swampy stomping feel as Salim’s guitar slides over a good time tune anchored by Max Butler’s piano and Rafael Cury’s spot-on vocals. The band then effortlessly switches gears to some straight outta Chicago blues on “Locked Out in Misery” that features more piano and a sharp harmonica turn from Darryl Carriere. Jake and Elwood would have loved to cover this one. The band takes us back down Highway 61 on  “Let it Burn,” a toe-tapping boogie-woogie number that surely has Lowell George smiling down from wherever he might now be. “Don’t try to fight the fire, just let it burn” might as well be talking about this album. There is no fighting it, and why would you?

Mo Beeks guests on the Hammond B3 for the slow and dreamy “No Need to Be Alone,” which also features some sweet picking from Salim that all hangs on the soft touch of Mike Hightower’s steady bass. The ghosts of Little Feat return on the boogie-funk of “Got to Find That Babe” with an assist from Minque Taylor’s guest vocals. The light and open hearted tune tells you that, even if he doesn’t “find that babe” it is still likely going to be a very good day. The rootsy “Down the Aisle” is another feel-good jaunt in the sun; all dobro and washboard bouncing off some popping barrelhouse piano.

Title track, “Mama’s Hometown” returns to that slow and steady blues. In no hurry to impress, the song does anyway with long, slow dobro slides and plenty of room to feel the reverberations. The return of Mo Beeks’ B3 and Minique Taylor’s harmony vocals are both icing on an already delicious cake. Vocalist Rafael Cury gets to show off his inner blues crooner on the lush and lovely “Best of Luck.” Do not miss the delicate and soulful piano solo on this one, a perfect compliment to Celso’s heartfelt guitar turn.

The album closes with a true blues deep cut. “In My Time of Dying” has been part of the DNA of the blues for century, played by everyone from Blind Willie Johnson, Bob Dylan and Led Zeppelin to Jack White. It is also the last song Chris Cornell sang in his final performance before his tragic death. It is heavy stuff and it comes as a surprise at the end of this too brief album of good vibe-in’ boogie and blues. But surprises are good things. Celso doesn’t have to prove his bonafides or the depth of his connection to this music, but this song does that anyway, and in spades. Stripped down to dobro, vocals and little else, it is reminder to listeners of the deep well of pain and spirit which all the music you’ve heard on this album sprang from. More than just a showcase of Salim’s prodigious guitar skills, it is an homage and offering to the ghosts who carried this music before him, and it also sounds like a promise to stay true to their memory. …and I believe it. You will too.

The Celso Salim Band has won five Independent Music Awards in these categories: Blues Song (2008), Blues Album (2015), Jazz with vocals Song (2015), Funk/Fusion/Jam Song (2017) and R&B/Soul song (2018).

For more information on Mama’s Hometown by The Celso Salim Band: