Ty Curtis: Englewood Forest Festival Gig Review

I first began hearing about a talented young blues rock musician named Ty Curtis who lived in my home of Salem, Oregon around 2009. In 2011, I covered a jam session between Ty on guitar and a couple of other local musicians on drums and turntable. Ty was creating experimental guitar sounds in the vein of Robert Fripp from “King Crimson.” Soon after that I reviewed a show with his blues band at a blues club and was impressed by what I witnessed. The band was tight and included drums, bass, keyboards, and harmonica as they blew off the roof and mesmerized the crowd. Curtis played guitar with confident assurance as peals of sound emanated from the manipulated strings accompanied by his strong bluesy voice. Then as if that wasn’t enough I found out that he wrote all the songs that he recorded.

Over the course of his career, he’s recorded six studio albums beginning in 2006 with Stubborn Mind. In 2016, Blame Me was listed as the #9 “Best Blues Rock Album” for that year by “Blues Rock Review.” In 2021, he released a compilation album called The Early Years. In 2022 he released “Hey Now” a new swampy slide guitar single that can be listened to on his website at https://www.tycurtis.net/ along with a top 10 playlist.

Over the years he has been the opening act for or shared the stage with Tyler Bryant, Robert Cray, “The Doobie Brothers,” Samantha Fish, Christone “Kingfish” Ingram, Roy Rogers, Curtis Salgado, George Thorogood, Robin Trower, and many others as well as playing at a number of major festivals. In 2008, the “Cascade Blues Association” awarded him a “Muddy” as the “Best New Act” and in 2009, Ty won 2nd place in Memphis, Tennessee at the “International Blues Challenge.” He’s won the “Cascade Blues Association’s” “Muddy Award” as the “Best Regional Act.” He’s also won the “Curtis Salgado Vocalist of the Year” award two times.

On Saturday, August 13, 2022, Ty Curtis was the headline performer at the annual “Englewood Forest Festival” in Salem, Oregon. Like most festivals and large gatherings it didn’t take place for two years because of COVID but it busted loose again in 2022.  Ty began his set at 1:00 PM in the 90 degree heat on an open stage that didn’t have an overhead canopy. Curtis’ band was stripped down to him on lead guitar and vocals along with Richard Lawrence playing a cajon. A cajon is a percussion instrument used to replace or augment drums and is originally from Peru. It looks like a box and is often called that or a crate.

Curtis played a set that was comprised of over two dozen songs, made up almost exclusively of his own original material performed over a ninety-minute period. His incendiary guitar playing emanated throughout the park as the sun beat down on the duo. At one point after concluding a cover of “Ready For Lovc” by “Bad Company” Ty remarked that during the song sweat was burning his eye really bad. When rock stars wore sweat bands in the 1980’s it wasn’t just to look cool.

The two man ensemble worked because the main feature of seeing Ty perform is hearing his extraordinaire electric guitar playing coupled with stellar vocals. Bands like the “White Stripes” and “Black Keys” proved that a full band isn’t necessary and artists like Keller Williams using loop technology became one man bands by playing multiple instruments and loop recording them for instant playback. “Back Again” from Blame Me was a mesmerizing guitar driven song that the crowd enthusiastically reacted to. “Bad Break” from 2014’s Water Under the Bridge was another killer tune that rocked the house and raised the temperature a couple more degrees.

Ty Curtis’ style ranged from hard rocking blues on Elmore James’ “Dust My Broom” to jazzy torch songs like “Seen My Chance” another gem from Water Under the Bridge. “Blame Me” is the title song of the 2016 release and is regularly found in his set list as a killer song whether performed by a full or stripped down band. After following Ty Curtis for over a decade and seeing him perform over a dozen times in as many venues he’s never been disappointing. Even under the adverse conditions that occurred with the heat and blazing sun, his performance was impressive. He is currently working on a new album and as already mentioned, he just released a new single called “Hey Now” which can be accessed on his website at https://www.tycurtis.net/


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