Ty Curtis is one of the hardest working blues rock artists in the Pacific Northwest. For the last couple of years he’s been splitting up his residency between Austin, Texas and his home in Salem, Oregon. This summer has seen him primarily in Oregon, doing everything from headlining the 2nd biggest blues festival in the USA to playing at clubs, casinos and private parties, while he promotes his killer 2016 release, Blame Me. Salem, Oregon is also one of the first U.S. cities in the path of a total solar eclipse on August 21st and tourists are expected to double the population of the state capitol along with a million people coming to Oregon in August for the event. In anticipation of the event there have been parties and concerts galore going on until the big day on August 21.
On Friday August 4, 2017, at 5:00 PM, Ty Curtis performed a concert in the roped off parking lot of Herbal Gardens, one of the first marijuana dispensaries to open in the city of Salem. A diverse age group attended the performance ranging in age from toddlers to social security recipients. The stage was the pavement and tent canopies were put up to protect the band from the scorching sun on a rare day that broke 100 degrees. Ty’s band was comprised of longtime members, drummer Jerry Jacques and bass player Willy Barber, who began playing along with the P.A. system as “Another One Bites The Dust,” blared. Once the duo had a driving rhythm going, Ty jumped in and they jammed as “Queen” was turned off and the band segued into “Back Again,” from Blame Me.
Ty walked out into the audience and played his guitar in front of individuals after dodging water hoses spraying a fine mist to cool things down. The metallic heavy sounds of his guitar filled the air along with the breeze blowing a water mist. Jerry began with a drum intro for “Fools Game,” from Cross That Line when Ty began wailing on with his guitar, alternating between vocals and screaming guitar licks. “That Good” was heavy on the rhythm section, providing a platform for Ty to ascend like a guitar god hammering out sonic bolts of ear splitting sound that touch the soul. Suddenly a homeless man came out of the bushes and sat down next to me in front of the band bobbing his head in time to the beat. The blistering heat was interspersed with gusts of wind that kept blowing the tent canopies over, so they had to take a break to anchor them with bricks or whatever heavy objects were available.
When the band returned with “What He Didn’t Know,” another cut from Cross That Line, that has a jazzier edge to it in a style reminding this writer of Eric Clapton and sometimes he even sounds like Peter Green. Ty sang “He comes on every night, gets up on the stage…,” in his smokey Paul Rodgers sounding voice. Jerry Jacques and Willy Barber were an incredible rhythm section playing in the scorching heat with the same amount of enthusiasm that I’ve seen them perform in an air conditioned venue. One of the ironies of this performance was the fact that a tent flap blocking some of the most intense rays of the sun also hid Jerry and Willie from most of the audience. Jacques commented that they should call themselves the invisible rhythm section, but their sonic contribution wasn’t unnoticed.
The reggae sounding “Urge and Temptation” was another cut off the Blame Me album and included an extended guitar solo that helped the mercury in the thermometer that was already registering 100 degrees move up another notch. Ty uses more than one bass player, depending on when and where he’s performing, but Barber has been with him on and off for about seven years, with experience playing with “The Blues Brothers,” Steve Miller, Curtis Salgado and Lloyd Jones. Jerry Jaques has played with everyone from Kenny Loggins, Dweezil Zappa, Stevie Wonder and “Tower of Power” to name some and has been Curtis’ regular drummer when he plays the Pacific Northwest about as long as Barber. The entire show lasted 90 minutes and included over a dozen songs with thrilling extended jams by the power trio, on a scorching day in August, while waiting for the eclipse.
Review by Bob Gersztyn