Boz Scaggs, “Out of the Blues” (Concord Records)
Sometimes with more gloss, at times with more grit, but always with great feeling, Boz Scaggs has kept some form of the blues close to the surface during most of his career, which has already sailed past the 50-year milestone.
On “Out of the Blues,” the last of an informal trilogy also including “Memphis” and “A Fool to Care” revisiting his roots and influences, Scaggs covers some superior blues tunes from decades past, along with a Neil Young song and originals by long-time collaborator Jack Walroth.
Unlike its two predecessors, “Out of the Blues” was produced by Scaggs instead of Steve Jordan, but some of the musicians from the earlier releases are back, including bassist Willie Weeks and guitarist Ray Parker Jr., topped up with additions including Jim Keltner (drums), Jim Cox (keys) and a lefty-righty combo of Texas six-stringers, Doyle Bramhall II, a guitarist with Fort Worth ties, and Charlie Sexton.
Walroth’s “Rock and Stick” has shades of soul and Andy Summers’ echoing guitar, with Scaggs’ falsetto emphasizing the emotions, while “I’ve Just Got to Forget You” — associated with Bland — is pure regret and heartbreak. Jimmy McCracklin’s “I’ve Just Got to Know,” based here on the magnetic Magic Sam version — deals with a step earlier in the relationship, even if the writing’s on the wall.
“Little Miss Night and Day,” a hardboiled rocker with solos from Cox, Bramhall and Sexton, is Scaggs’ only songwriting credit, shared with Walroth, whose grooves fit right in with the rest of the repertoire.
Scaggs sounds aptly fatigued on Young’s “On the Beach,” which features great guitar work by Bramhall and a disillusionment with fame that sometimes even an everyman can emphasize with: “Though my problems are meaningless/That don’t make them go away.”
The blues suit Scaggs and thankfully “The Feeling Is Gone” is just the last song on the album, not a reflection of his performances.