Boz Scaggs' "Memphis" Has Soul

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2019 Harpdog Brown A 728×90

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Boz Scaggs has been around for while, and he is no stranger to blues, rock, or soul. Most folks will remember his hits from the album Silk Degrees in the 1970s. There is so much more to this artist; much more. Scaggs actually sang and played guitar as a member of the Steve Miller Band on their first two albums. His 1969 release, Boz Scaggs featured the Muscle Shoals Rhythm Section, along with session guitarist Duane Allman on “Loan Me A Dime.” In 1997 he issued an album of blues, Come On Home, and in 2003, an album of jazz standards, But Beautiful. He also continues to tour regularly. (And he is an excellent guitarist in his own right!)

On March 5th, Scaggs will release Memphis on 429 Records. The album is a combination of Memphis soul and blues. The personnel on this album are all stellar musicians: Willie Weeks on bass, Steve Jordan on drums, Ray Parker Jr. on guitars, Boz Scaggs on guitars and vocals, Spooner Oldham on keyboards, and the Memphis Horns. Charlie Musselwhite plays harmonica, strings are arranged by Lester Snell (many arrangements for Stax Records), and the album is produced by Steve Jordan.

The majority of the album is sweet, laid back, Memphis soul, with a couple of blues cuts as well. There are several standouts here. The key word here is smooth, and there is plenty of that to go around. “So Good To Be Here” sounds very much like an Al Green record: great beat, wonderful rhythm guitar backing, sweet guitar fills in all the right places, and then Scaggs’ voice floating over the top. Awesome! “Mixed Up Shook Up Girl” conjures up images of sitting at a Tiki Hut bar on the beach with its drum beats and guitars, and has some great backing vocals. “Rainy Night In Georgia” is soft, unhurried, and has Scaggs showing his vocals are still incredible (and even a little husky in spots here).  “Love On A Two Way Street” is straight-up soft soul. “Cadillac Walk” has a moderate boogie/blues feel to it with some good piano, and the guitars have that Daniel Lanois atmospheric quality.  “Corinna Corinna” is a soft ballad with excellent acoustic guitar and a great vocal by Scaggs.  “Dry Spell” is a slow shuffle blues with Charlie Musselwhite on harmonica, and Ray Parker Jr. playing some juicy slide licks. “You Got Me Cryin'” is slow, luscious blues, with well played, intertwined, guitar lines (Scaggs playing lead).

This is very much an album of atmosphere and mood. It is textured, but also ballsy in a quiet, understated way. Sublime. The players sound great, and Scaggs is smoother than ever. Sound quality and production values are good here too, thanks to Steve Jordan and company. Boz Scaggs Memphis is a keeper!

Boz Scaggs