Photo courtesy of bozscaggs.com
Boz Scaggs will bring sounds off his new album “Out of the Blues” to the Saenger on Tuesday, April 9.
Band: Boz Scaggs
Date: Tuesday, April 9, with doors at 6:30 p.m.
Venue: Saenger Theatre, 6 S. Joachim St. (Mobile), mobilesaenger.com
Tickets: $39.50-$74.50, available through Ticketmaster
Boz Scaggs has a case of the blues and plans to share it with his audience at Mobile’s “Jewel on Joachim” next Tuesday evening when this blue-eyed soul/R&B legend entertains fans with cuts from his new album, “Out of the Blues.”
This appropriately-titled album finds Scaggs taking on blues numbers from such artists as Jack “Applejack” Walroth, Bobby “Blue” Bland, Jimmy Reed and even Neil Young. “Out of the Blues” represents the completion of a unique trilogy driven by a concept that began to take shape when Scaggs crossed paths with “producer/drummer/great musician” Steve Jordan.
“We had worked before with previous recordings, but we had not really worked together as a team,” Scaggs said. “We had promised each other that one day we would. We found a lot of commonality in the music we liked.”
This commonality was American roots music, especially New Orleans-based sounds. As their exploration of American roots genres progressed, Scaggs and Jordan kept returning to the blues. Scaggs says the duo began to compile a list of covers and originals that focused on R&B and soul for the first album. From there, the two decided the natural place to lay down tracks would be Royal Studios in Memphis. Next, they handpicked a group of session artists that fit their pristine musical vision.
“It seemed like a pretty clear path with not much need for discussion, because we do have a lot in common in style and tastes,” said Scaggs. “So, then, we just started looking for the material that would fit that time and place and interest. It was oriented in the blues and R&B primarily, and that album [titled ‘Memphis’] was very satisfying to make. We decided to do it again.”
“A Fool to Care” served as the second album in the trilogy. For this musical excursion, Scaggs and Jordan retreated to Nashville’s Blackbird Studio. Scaggs says he and Jordan felt the album needed a “warm sound palette” they felt this studio could offer. As with “Memphis,” the duo handpicked session artists they felt could fulfill their vision for the album. Once again, they also filled the album with both covers and originals from the world of R&B and soul.
When it came time to plan for “Out of the Blues,” Scaggs decided to return to his formative years in Oklahoma and Texas. He said he was influenced by his parents’ taste for artists featured on “Your Hit Parade” as well as the music they enjoyed from the ‘30s and ‘40s. He also notes the advent of rock ‘n’ roll as a creative influence. However, Scaggs says the blues was an “early part” of where he started.
“All those things moved me into my own style in my career, but in working with my pal Steve Jordan and this whole thing that we started, I stayed in that blues vein to some degree,” Scaggs said. “It’s a pretty loose kind of blues. There’s different kinds, and I used that album title to emphasize the fact that there’s lots of different forms of the blues. I tried to show some of those different forms in doing this record.”
Scaggs’ “dream team” for this album included longtime guitarist Ray Parker Jr., who has been Scaggs’ “go-to guy for recording” since 1979. Since he would be delving into the roots of Texas blues, Scaggs also approached Lone Star guitarists Doyle Bramhall II and Charlie Sexton, whom he felt could best represent the Texas aspect of the blues world in both talent and tradition. Fortunately, both Bramhall and Sexton had enough downtime between other projects to join Scaggs and a number of the musicians who had worked on the previous two albums.
“It was a lot of fun and gave us a chance to know each other a little bit,” said Scaggs. “I took the opportunity to bring them into the picture. The rhythm tracks were recorded in three days, and they just fit right in with everybody else. I was thinking about my dream team in terms of musicians. Most of us had worked together on the previous two records, but we always call in a few musicians to give it a special style. So, Charlie and Doyle just fit right in.”
“Out of the Blues” is a musical representation of Scaggs’ love affair with this American roots genre. However, the tracks he chose from longtime collaborator Jack “Applejack” Walroth are truly special, especially the album’s opener, “Rock and Stick.” This song is a perfect mix of deep blues and Scaggs’ trademark blue-eyed soul sound.
Scaggs and Walroth have been friends and co-writers for decades. Eventually the two began to focus on Walroth’s extensive catalog of songs to see if any inspired an album. “Rock and Stick” as well as “Little Miss Night and Day” and “Those Lies” are among many Walroth songs that have made a lasting impression on Scaggs.
“Those songs have been with me and I had them in my head for a very long time,” said Scaggs. “This is a perfect opportunity for me to pull some of these out that I thought I could get my teeth into.”
In addition to Walroth’s contributions to “Out of the Blues,” Scaggs’ audience can also expect accurate live renditions of the Bobby “Blue” Bland hits “I’ve Just Got To Forget You” and “The Feeling Is Gone,” both of which were penned by Don Deadric Robey. These tracks are standouts for Scaggs’ decision to stay true to the original arrangements. In the past, Bland’s vocal dynamics and range have made Scaggs hesitant to cover those songs, but Scaggs’ seasoned brand of soul mingles well with Robey’s measures.
“When I did finally decide to tackle these songs, they’re not typical blues chord changes,” Scaggs said. “I didn’t want to take it away from that. I didn’t want to depart from what those songs were. The thing that made them unique to me and other people who grew up with it were those chord changes. I stuck to the chord changes and the instrumentation. We modified the horn arrangements a bit. Otherwise, I gave it whatever I could give to my voice to try and do justice to Bobby’s rendition.”
While the studio versions of these tracks are excellent, Scaggs is sure to use a live context to take them in new directions. His show at the Saenger should be an unforgettable evening for blues enthusiasts as well as longtime fans of Scaggs’ music.
While fans will always hope for a little “Lido Shuffle” or “Lowdown,” they shouldn’t be disappointed if his show is dominated by tracks from “Out of the Blues.” No matter what genre he tackles, Scaggs will always fill his music with the deep soul sounds for which he’s known.
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