Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Boz Scaggs. A Fool to Care.

Boz Scaggs.  A Fool to Care.
429 Records, 2015.  Boz Scaggs:

We reviewed Scaggs’ last album, Memphis, just over two years ago, and here he is back with another release. With many of the same musicians backing him, there’s a certain continuity in sound as well as style, but this time, instead of an emphasis on the city in Tennessee we hear a whole lot of New Orleans, a big chunk of roadhouse, and a bit of jazz and disco. This is not a bad thing, as Scaggs’ voice fits nicely in those genres, and he gets some help from Bonnie Raitt and Lucinda Williams in the vocal department.

Only one song is an original, “Hell to Pay,” which is done as a duet with Ms. Raitt, and it’s a fine one, with a good, solid bluesy feel. The other duet, “Whispering Pines,” features Ms. Williams and reinterprets the Band’s classic tune in a way that is hard to classify, other than as a lovely ballad. The title track is an old Ted Daffan song and sound like classic New Orleans R&B. Odd that it’s the shortest track on the album. The opener falls into the same style, and makes me think of Fats Domino and Frogman Henry. And speaking of New Orleans, Scaggs includes a Huey Smith tune, “High Blood Pressure,” a fine workout. These three songs stitch the tone of the album together, despite some side roads taken in other tracks. A couple of other ballads take advantage of Scaggs’ ability to put a song across, my favorite being “There’s a Storm Comin’,” a gorgeous gem of a song that includes some 50s-style guitar by Ray Parker, Jr. Following on its heels is a classic soul tune by Curtis Mayfield, “I’m So Proud,” which gives Scaggs the chance to use his high range. “Last Tango on 16th Street” is a downtempo tango that lends variety and a sense of coolness to the whole affair. Very jazzy. He revisits the style in “I Want to See You.” Frankly, nearly all the songs on this album are highly enjoyable, whether they recall the Big Easy, tangos, or Scaggs’ earlier work from the 1970s (“Love Don’t Love Nobody”). For me, the only misstep is “Full of Fire,” a disco tune that brings back some of the music I liked least from the 70s.  Some folks may disagree.

In all, Scaggs and his compatriots do a great job in bringing back some musical styles that have largely disappeared from the current scene, but performing them in a way that doesn’t sound like Throwback Thursday.  They’re fresh, fun, and well, I can’t think of another appropriate f-word.  Highly recommended.

Personnel:  Boz Scaggs (vocals, rhythm and lead guitar), Steve Jordan (drums, percussion, background vocals), Willie Weeks (bass), Jim Cox (B-3, piano, pump organ, vibraphone), Al Anderson (chunk guitar, guitar figure), Douglas Rowan (baritone, tenor, and alto saxophones), Jim Hoke (baritone and tenor saxophones, bass clarinet, accordion, vibraphone, alto flute, woodwinds), Eric Crystal (tenor and alto saxophones, piano), Ray Parker, Jr. (electric and acoustic guitar, rhythm guitar), Bonnie Raitt (vocals, slide guitar), Seth Asarnow (bandoneon, pump organ), Clifford Carter (synth atmospherics), Conesha “Ms. Monét” Owens (background vocals), Tony Lindsay (background vocals), Fred Ross (background vocals), Reggie Young (guitar), Ben Cauley (trumpet), Jack Hale (trombone), Jim Horn (baritone saxophone), Lannie McMillan (tenor saxophone), Quentin L Ware, Jr. (trumpet), The Love Sponge Strings (strings, of course), Lucinda Williams (vocals), Paul Franklin (steel guitar).  Whew.
Tracks:  Rich Woman, I’m a Fool to Care, Hell to Pay, Small Town Talk, Last Tango on 16th Street, There’s a Storm Comin’, I’m So Proud, I Want to See You, High Blood Pressure, Full of Fire, Love Don’t Love Nobody, Whispering Pines.

Jeff Wanser

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