As a kid in the ’70s, I enjoyed Boz Scaggs’ hits, such as “Lido.” But it wasn’t until I heard his blues classic “Loan Me a Dime” that I realized what a masterful musician he is. It was a pleasure to interview the easygoing and gracious Scaggs recently. The conversation below ranges from his recent albums (as good as ever) to his winery in the hills above Napa. Click here to read the story in the Press Democrat which includes a video of “Loan Me a Dime.”
By MICHAEL SHAPIRO
FOR THE PRESS DEMOCRAT
May 13, 2015
Boz Scaggs is having the time of his life. His new album, “A Fool to Care” has just been released, he’s packing theaters across the U.S. and worldwide, and when he’s not making music he tends a small vineyard with his wife, Dominique, at their mountainside home in Napa County.
The new album, recorded in Nashville, segues deftly from soul to jazz to R&B. It’s easy to listen to, like hanging out with an old friend.
Southern influence permeates the record on songs like Curtis Mayfield’s gem, “I’m So Proud.” Yet Scaggs isn’t afraid of venturing into new territory: Some songs have a Latin flavor, such as “Last Tango on 16th Street.”
The suave and debonair Scaggs, now 70 though he doesn’t look it, seems more comfortable than ever.
Growing up in Oklahoma and Texas, he started out as a blues singer, briefly joining Steve Miller’s band in the 1960s, (Scaggs and Miller went to high school together in Dallas).
Soon afterwards, Scaggs made a splash in 1969 singing an extended blues song, “Somebody Loan Me a Dime,” with Duane Allman on guitar. The song is still on Scaggs’ set list.
Then came the commercial peak of Scaggs’ career. The 1976 album “Silk Degrees” produced two mega-hits: “Lowdown” and “Lido Shuffle.” Like the Steely Dan albums of that era, the songs perfectly melded jazz, pop and rock.
Scaggs appears Wednesday, May 20, at the Wells Fargo Center and plays on Saturday, May 16, at the Masonic Center in San Francisco.
In a phone interview in late April, Scaggs said he’s still fond of his long-ago hits and enjoys playing them live. “I love that material, and certainly it connects me with an audience in a way that nothing else can,” he said.
The classics remain fun because “I never play a song the same way twice,” Scaggs said. “It’s different every night; if it weren’t I think I would be bored, and I probably wouldn’t want to do it. It’s a different feeling, a different stage, a different audience. It’s a different vibe every night, so it’s always fresh.”
That said, Scaggs relishes playing his new songs. His two most recent albums, 2013’s “Memphis” and his most recent release, give him plenty of strong material. “I can mix it up quite a lot,” he said. “We keep a pretty broad playlist in front of us.”
Scaggs and his band (including guest appearances by Lucinda Williams and Bonnie Raitt), recorded the new album in less than a week. Scaggs has become a master craftsman; he and his bandmates know where they’re going so it doesn’t take them long to get there.
A couple of years ago, Williams and Scaggs sang together and vowed to collaborate again. Scaggs heard her sing a song by The Band called “Whispering Pines” in tribute to Levon Helm, so he asked Williams to sing that song with him on the new album.
The pairing with Raitt was natural: “I had another track, (‘Hell to Pay’), and it just seemed to have Bonnie all over it,” Scaggs said. So he sent Raitt a demo, and she agreed to play and sing on it.
Their voices remain distinctive even when they’re singing together, and Raitt’s slide guitar fits the song like a glove.
Scaggs’ voice, like a fine wine, seems to be improving with age.
“I’ve gone from a tenor to a tenor baritone,” he said. “I’ve been doing a lot of vocal work, and I think the voice in my head is closer to the voice that comes out of my throat than it’s ever been. I am finding an inner voice too.”
Reaching those depths comes in part from his quiet time at Scaggs Vineyard, the home he shares with Dominique near a ridge in the Mayacamas mountains, “up in the hills and a kind of remote place,” Scaggs said, just east of the Sonoma County line.
“It’s proven to be a really good balance for me,” he said. “We moved out of our apartment in San Francisco about a year ago, and I really thought we would be missing the urban experience.
“But I am touring a lot now, and when I get off the road and away from the crowds there’s no place I’d rather be than home. I’ve really become very attached, in a way that I never knew before, to our little place here.”
Michael Shapiro, author of “A Sense of Place,” writes about entertainment for The Press Democrat. Contact him through his site: www.michaelshapiro.net.