Boz Scaggs – Out Of The Blues (2018)

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Out Of The Blues is the third part of a trilogy of albums — the first being Memphis and the second A Fool To Care — that traces Boz Scaggs’ musical roots, which not surprisingly is heavy on Southern blues imbued with urban soul. Like the prior two albums Out gives us insight into what has informed and shaped Scaggs’ own music and infusing just a mild contemporary feel, he’s able to recreate the magic of the masters who came before him without breaking much of a sweat.

Though Scaggs downplays it, he’s a vastly underrated blues guitarist; nonetheless he keeps his six-string in the shadows and brought in Ray Parker, Jr. and ArcAngels kingpins Charlie Sexton and Doyle Bramhall II to handle the lead guitar chores. Other session giants Willie Weeks (bass), Jim Keltner (drums) and Jim Cox (keys) complete a roster of musicians that would make anyone apart from Steely Dan envious.

Four of these nine tracks were penned by Jack ‘Applejack’ Walroth, Scaggs’ erstwhile collaborator since they were both hanging out in Madison, WI prior to moving to the San Francisco Bay Area around the same time in the mid 60s. Walroth is on hand to lend is street-tough blues harp to his “Rock and Stick,” countering the ultra-coolness oozing from Scaggs’ croon occasionally sliding into falsetto and tastefully accented by a Vocoder. Keltner’s strong back beat powers the stomping “Radiator 110,” sounding like a bluesier re-imagining of Don Henley’s “Dirty Laundry.” Scaggs’ only composing credit comes from the “Little Miss Night and Day” tune he wrote with Walroth, brimming with 50s rock n’ roll goodness and a sprightly piano aside from Cox. Walroth’s final contribution “Those Lies” is a irresistible funky number that should be a part of your next dance party.

A horn-fueled salutation kicks off Bobby ‘Blue’ Bland’s “I’ve Just Got To Forget You” and then Jim Cox slathers on the Hammond B3 to go along with the saxophones. Ever the master of controlled delivery, Scaggs makes clear he learned a lot of that from Bland. The same winning ingredients are used again for another Bland classic “The Feeling Is Gone.”

Shaped by a battery of RnB saxes, a tinkling piano and a bank of rhythm guitars, this rendition Jimmy McCracklin’s early 60s hit “I’ve Just Got To Know” makes you want to go back and play pre-Beatles RnB 45s all night long. Scaggs takes the ragged edges off of Neil Young’s “On The Beach” but doesn’t go further and slick it up (a down home guitar spotlight assures of that) and stretches it out to a lengthy eight minutes. And he takes on Jimmy Reed’s shuffling “Down In Virginia” with a vocal strikingly similar to the late, great bluesman.

Boz Scaggs’ return-to-my-roots project is now complete and he’s three for three. Long past the hit-making phenomena of the Silk Degrees years, Scaggs is still providing some very good reasons to keep listening to him. Out Of The Blues is slated for release on July 27, 2018 from the Concord Music Group.


S. Victor Aaron

S. Victor Aaron

S. Victor Aaron is an SQL demon for a Fortune 100 company by day, music opinion-maker at night. His musings are strewn out across the interwebs on jazz.com, AllAboutJazz.com, a football discussion board and some inchoate customer reviews of records from the late 1990s on Amazon under a pseudonym that will never be revealed. E-mail him at svaaron@somethingelsereviews .com or follow him on Twitter at https://twitter.com/SVictorAaron
S. Victor Aaron
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