The Arts Desk
March 15, 2015
CD: Boz Scaggs - A Fool To Care
There is languor about the swamps of the Southern USA that’s reflected in the drawl of local speech and the slow-paced sensuality of the music. Boz Scaggs, indefatigable lover of American roots music, and one of the most consistently excellent US musicians of the last 40 years, swings down South for his latest collection of flawlessly produced covers. Rich Womanwhich opens the album captures the downhome funk of L’il Millet and his Creoles’ original better than the ear-catching revival of the same song a few years ago by Robert Plant and Alison Krauss.
Scaggs has always gone for the heart of a song: he does covers with a mixture of love and authenticity that can produce the sensuous gold of High Blood Pressureor the irresistible lolloping swing of I’m a Fool to Care. The horn section delivers honeyed punctuating riffs and the musicianship throughout is as relaxed as can be. There is, though, an occasional sense that Scaggs struts his stuff a little too smoothly – he is, after all the master of suave – and his copycat version of Al Green’s perennial hymn to Eros, Full of Fire, doesn’t quite deliver the cool exuberance of the original. And, although his take on Small Town Talk can’t easily be faulted, it lacks the delicious combination of rough and smooth that makes Bobby Charles’s version a masterpiece.
On the ballads – not least There is Storm Coming and Love Don’t Love – Scaggs weaves the magic that he conjures so deftly, with a soulful warmth and intimacy that avoids sentimentality and bears his highly distinctive vocal signature. His gentle and melancholy tone is the perfect foil for the heart-breaking rawness ofLucinda Williams, who joins him on a stirring version of Whispering Pines.
This is music for lovers of good music: you can feel the joy that comes from rockin’ and rollin’ with Bonnie Raitt, on Hell to Pay, a track whose pace and rhythm are a surefire call to the dance, a hip-rolling, butt-shaking celebration of the blues. This may not be quite as exceptional an album as “Some Change” (1994) or “Dig” (2001) but it has plenty of stunning moments that bear witness to the continuing genius of one of America’s most underrated musical stars.