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Boz Scaggs taps back into his musical youth

Digital First Media, @GraffonMusic

Posted: Tuesday, August 11, 2015

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Boz Scaggs has written plenty of original music during the nearly five decades years since he began playing with the Steve Miller Band.

But these days he's immersing himself in the music of other writers he loves.

Both 2013's "Memphis" and this year's "Hell To Pay, which he recorded across Tennessee in Nashville, focus on some of Scaggs' favorite writers and songs. "That's the seminal music for me," explains Scaggs, 71, by phone from his home in San Francisco. "My world stopped when I heard Little Richard and Jimmy Reed.

"So it was easy for me to jump on Chuck Berry and Little Richard and Fats Domino and Jimmy Reed. Those were formative characters. And when that little flame starts it reignites a whole world of music to me and opens up pathways to all sorts of songs and vocal approaches. It just really feels good and irresistible to me."

As on "Memphis," Scaggs recorded "Hell To Pay" with producer and drummer Steve Jordan, a session veteran who's also well-known as Rolling Stones guitarist Keith Richards' right-hand man on his solo albums. Scaggs explains that Jordan "lives there, in that music, like I do," making him "great catalyst" for sessions that are so intuitive and efficient that it took just four days to record the latest album.

"Steve is a very important producer for me," Scaggs notes. "I always work with a player-arranger or co-writer, a very strong musician when I collaborate in a production kind of way. But Steve and I are exploring things I don't think I could explore with anybody else in quite this way. There will be others, but Steve is really fun to play with; his grooves are big and his musical knowledge is great and he's just fun to be with.

"So, as you say, it ain't broke and we're enjoying it. Why change?"

The "Silk Degrees" hitmaker -- who was born in Ohio and raised in Oklahoma and Texas -- has not given up his own songwriting, however. "Memphis" featured two of his songs, while "Hell To Pay" has one -- "A Fool To Care," whose initial idea dates back to the mid-80s and features a duet with Bonnie Raitt, who also plays guitar on the track.

I was scared to call Bonnie," Scaggs admits. "I'm sort of in awe of Bonnie. So Jordan called Bonnie and we sent Bonnie the demo and the lyrics and she fell for it and she came up to the house and we spent a day together. She's just a really strong musician, a remarkable woman. That's special to me."

Boz Scaggs and Los Lobos

7:30 p.m. Wednesday, Aug. 12.

Freedom Hill Amphitheatre, 14900 Metropolitan Parkway, Sterling Heights.

Tickets are $35-$85 pavilion, $10 lawn.

Call 586-268-9700 or visit www.freedomhill.net for details.

Web Site: www.freedomhill.net

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