Boz Scaggs shows Britt he's still got soul
Boz Scaggs hit the Britt hillside Monday night in the middle of a tour that might well wear down musicians half his age. At 71, he’s in the middle of a 32-city tour with only an occasional night off, and he sounds as good as ever. Maybe better.
From the opening bars of “Runnin’ Blues,” Scaggs was in full, distinctive voice, and his large band (two keyboards and two percussionists, no less) was playing with the consummate professionalism for which they’re known.
Scaggs found success as a youngster in the world of pop with the Steve Miller band in the 1960s and moved on to a solo career in which he gained a reputation as a genre-exploring wizard who’s adept at everything from blue-eyed soul to jazz and rock. He’s a singer’s singer whose solo hits such as “Lowdown,” which got an effectively moody treatment in the middle of the show, have held up well.
But Scaggs has shown an interest in rootsier stuff in recent years, with 2013’s highly successful album “Memphis” and his latest effort, “I’m a Fool to Care,” which was recorded in that city with super-guests Bonnie Raitt and Lucinda Williams and released in March.
He did several songs off the new album, which runs to covers of soul and R&B from the likes of Al Green, Curtis Mayfield, The Band, and Les Paul and Mary Ford, mixing the newly recorded numbers with vintage tunes from his own lengthy songbook.
Paul and Ford’s “A Fool to Care” was rousing New Orleans-style R&B served to perfection by Scaggs and the band. It sounded like Fats Domino, but Scaggs said the inspiration was actually Joe Barry’s early 1960s version. Whatever, it rocked.
Tony Joe White’s “Rainy Night in Georgia” was so atmospheric you almost smell the wet moss on all those southern oaks. Scoggs’ own recent composition “Hell to Pay” was delivered with a bluesy sass that might make you think of Raitt, who in fact sings on the cut on the album. Scaggs said deadpan that he was inspired to write the song by Texas (sample lyric: “I bought me a senator in Texas and a judge down in New Orleans”).
The singer and the band had a breezy, infectious go at Mink De Ville’s “Mixed Up Shook Up Girl" and were charging smoothly into the familiar chorus of his monster hit “Lowdown” when a reviewer’s deadline sounded.
Portland guitarist Dan Balmer opened for Scaggs. Balmer is a jazz musician (and frequent Britt opening act) who is best-known for his work on tour with singer Diane Schuur and as the youngest person ever to be named to both the Oregon Music Hall of Fame and the Jazz Society of Oregon Hall of Fame. A frequent collaborator with the likes of drummer Mel Brown, pianist Tom Grant and bassist David Friesen, he teaches jazz and guitar at Lewis and Clark College. With his trio (guitar, drums, keyboards), he bounced jazzy grooves around the hillside to set the stage for Scaggs.
Reach freelance writer Bill Varble at email@example.com.