Ever since Boz Scaggs first emerged riding shotgun as Steve Miller’s lead singer for two albums in the late ’60s, it seemed only a matter of time before even bigger things would come from him. The deft vocal stylings, emotive guitar solos, and relaxed-yet-intense stage presence foreshadowed what has now become fact: With 18 albums under his belt, Scaggs stands tall as a mega-successful player/writer who has never bent to current trends to get it done.
He’s also among the few recording artists who can issue albums of other artists’ material and still be known as a “singer/songwriter.” When he covers someone else’s tune, he takes possession of their creation as if it was his own.
Scaggs’ latest studio effort, A Fool To Care, demonstrates this, as only one of the 12 cuts was his original creation. But as usual, Scaggs brings a patchwork of influences, innovations and guest artists along, most notably Lucinda Williams for a duet on The Band’s iconic anthem “Whispering Pines,” and Bonnie Raitt, who vocally duels with Scaggs and embellishes his “Hell To Pay” with her trademark slide guitar riffs.
“I’m at a point now where I’m having a lot of fun with music, more than ever,” Scaggs says. “It’s like I’m just going wherever I want to go with it.”
That sense of freedom is evident as A Fool To Care displays easy-going southern blues rock, plush vocal harmonies, intricate-yet-effortless jazz-informed instrumental arrangements and smooth, understated R&B lyric and melodic structures – with Scaggs’ blue-eyed, seamless tenor soulfully lording over it all. When we do get to hear his songwriting, his “Hell To Pay” is 6-plus minutes of pure swing blues which offers an unapologetic take on political corruption: “I bought me a senator in Texas/ And I bought me a judge down in New Orleans.”
Scaggs’ work is made even more fluid by drummer Steve Jordan, who produced this album and Scaggs’ last effort as well. This freed up Scaggs even more.
“Steve works on a pretty high energy level,” Scaggs says. “It’s relaxed and easy, but also very highly charged. I feel pretty solid in the studio, but Steve takes a lot off my plate. It’s really nice for me not to have to do anything but be a singer and a guitar player.”
BOZ SCAGGS 8pm Friday, Nov. 4. Sunset Center, San Carlos and Ninth, Carmel. $82-$123. 620-2048, www.sunsetcenter.org