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Boz Scaggs: Out Of The Blues

Doug Collette By

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It's been quite a while since Boz Scaggs' massive commercial breakthrough with Silk Degrees (Columbia, 1976), but even longer since he debuted as a solo artist, upon his departure from The Steve Miller Band, with his eponymous (domestic) debut album. Permeated with a soulful sense of the blues---even apart from the late Duane Allman's now-famous incendiary guitar solo on "Loan Me A Dime"---this Atlantic Records LP (produced by Jann Wenner, founder of Rolling Stone magazine) was hardly the only early record of Scaggs' with such an earthy predilection---see Boz Scaggs & Band (Columbia, 1971).

In recent years, Scaggs has revisited the roots he began to nurture living in Texas as a child and, accordingly, Out Of The Blues is the final instalment of an unofficial trilogy, including Memphis (429 Records, 2013) and A Fool to Care (429 Records?, 2015). Here Boz and his pedigree accompanists stylishly interweave songs recorded by Bobby Blue Bland, Magic Sam, and Jimmy Reed, with originals that Boz co-wrote with longtime San Francisco bluesman/eccentric Jack Walroth, plus a surprising take on Neil Young's "On The Beach." The sum effect is deceptively potent.

This combustible mix of material reaffirms a common thread connecting this album with those aforementioned releases—the form of authentic blues is less crucial than the feel. Which is why the Canadian's song, at once doleful and quietly optimistic, so vividly echoes the range of emotion that dominates the genre. The support of the basic band—a core ensemble of Willie Weeks, Jim Keltner, Jim Box, Ray Parker Jr,, plus guitarists Doyle Bramhall II and Charlie Sexton—emphasizes economy over flash, so the streamlined arrangements benefit greatly from the occasional addition of horns, as on the slinky likes of "I've Just Got To Forget You" and "I've Just Got To Know." Richard Dodd's mastering accentuates all instrumental textures for optimum clarity (a facet of the album also enhanced by the mixes of Niko Bolas, who has worked with Young in the past).

Like Eric Crystal's quick turn with tenor on the former, a crisp guitar solo by Charlie Sexton on the latter ensures Out Of The Blues remains clear of the middle-of-the-road likes of Moments (Columbia, 1971). Boz wails on those cuts too and brings a sly delivery to "Radiator 110," thereby reminding how humor is an integral component of the blues. Scaggs' frequent composing partner (four collaborations here including a gleeful "Little Miss Night and Day"), Walroth adds spice to that track with his harmonica.

Through the course of approximately forty-minutes and nine tracks—two of which were composed by Don Deadric Robey, composer of "Turn On Your Lovelight"—Boz Scaggs uses the distinctly suave approach he has developed over the years, to demonstrate exactly how to balance grit and romance. And he makes it sound easy.

Track Listing: Rock And Stick; I’ve Just Got To Forget You; I’ve Just Got To Know; Radiator 110; Little Miss Night And Day; On The Beach; Down In Virginia; Those Lies; The Feeling Is Gone.

Personnel: Boz Scaggs: vocals, guitar, backing vocals, bass, vocoder; Ray Parker Jr.: guitar, acoustic guitar: Doyle Bramhall II: guitar; Charlie Sexton: guitar, harmonica; Steve Freund: guitar; Jim Cox: piano, Wurlitzer electric piano, Hammond B-3 Organ, harmonium, Moog; Eric Crystal, Thomas Politzer, Doc Kupka: saxophones; Jack Walroth: harmonica, percussion; Willie Weeks: bass; Ricky Fataar: drums; Jim Keltner: drums.

Title: Out Of The Blues | Year Released: 2018 | Record Label: Concord Records

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