Stevie Salas (Mescalero Apache) was born and raised in San Diego, California but it wasn’t until he moved to Los Angeles that his musical journey began in earnest. His life in L.A. meant crashing on studio couches and playing guitar in search of gigs. Then George Clinton appeared, needing someone to play chords on a song he was recording.
With that, Salas’ resume quickly expanded to include the likes of Mick Jagger, Rod Stewart and Bootsie Collins. He fronted tours with Joe Satriani and Steve Vai, and other respected musicians. Despite his credibility within the music world, Salas remains relatively unknown in certain circles and solid international recognition is slow in coming.
With his career continuing to blossom he’s begun to eke out a space in Native music. Salas does proud the tradition begun by people like Jesse Ed Davis, the brilliant Native rocker who also toured with Rod Stewart.
Salas’ developing style is showcased in The Sun And The Earth – The Essential Stevie Salas, Vol. 1, a clean, crisp and precise two-CD set. Unlike a lot of guitar players he doesn’t abuse the use of effects and the recording quality is excellent. He has earned the respect of his peers by continuing to move forward and improve his guitar playing and his sound.
There is a wonderful production quality here. The cover art is good and the insert contains autobiographical material in Salas’ words and his thoughts on each track, a short bio and photos reflective of his development. The song sequence is ideal and these CDs flow together beautifully .
Disc 1 starts with Tell Your Story Walkin’, a hard, punk funk growler, the anthem of the genre and his top 10 hit.
He follows with Pumpin’ It Up – featuring Koshi Inaba, Rob Lamouth and Bernard Fowler – and further establishes the dark punk funk, his signature style.
Two Bullets & A Gun, featuring Bootsy Collins has a really hard, beautiful guitar hook. An interesting perspective on “Love” as a sentiment and the guitar solo here is something special.
Hots On For Nowhere (Nicklebag, featuring Bernard Fowler and Ronnie Wood) is tight and precise. Beautiful guitar work at all levels. Stevie continues to pay respects to the African American rock guitar players. Nice slide work.
Disc 2 brings a tasteful connection with the disco genre with Soul Ecstasy, featuring Jerry Cantrell. It’s a nice sound. The CD gets to be real fun when he moves through a very soulful Jimi Hendrix blues-inspired vamp with the flanger on, and segues very nicely into the Stevie Wonder hit, I Was Made To Love Her. Outrageous and beautiful. From there he slides into a very cool, low slow soulful vocal riff.
This is what I’m talking about. There is no way to be Stevie Wonder, but done with respect, maturity and grace this song becomes a Stevie Salas song. If you can dig that. He’s even got the soul sista’ chorus in there. This is really fun. It’s inspired. Brilliant rhythm section. Brilliant guitar work on all levels. It’s excellent vocally as well.
Also on Disc 2 we are treated to three songs that are certainly reflective of Mr. Salas’s journey down the Red Road.
Indian Chief has a raw deep bottom. This is some 3.2 joint deep in Indian country and the gig is drums and guitar with a microphone that’s plugged into the guitar amp. Two couples grope around on the saw-dusty dance floor. This could be a crossover Indian country hit and should at least be getting some Native radio airplay.
Trail Of Tears, an instrumental, is a sad melody that evokes the grief of the experience.
Indian Friends is another top 10 indian country hit. I dig this song most of all. Its got great soul. Is this spoken word or a crossover into some hip-hop thing goin’ down here? Talkin’ his blues. But it rocks. He ends with the message, “I walk through the valley of death with a smile, ‘cuz all I see are my Indian friends and she’s waitin’ for me there, yeah, she’s waitin’ for me there.” Better than clever. Done with enough lightness to convey a sympathy with this sentiment. We can relate. This song has greatness written all over it.
I can’t wait for his national tour. When he comes to town I think I might sit down in the front row, have a cold drink and rock my soul free ‘til my ears bleed.