The Lowdown on Boz

Musician Boz Scaggs celebrates his sixty-ninth birthday today. You may be familiar with Boz through his string of hits in the ’70s, but the guy is still a vital artist. His new disc — Memphis — seems to me an inspired throwback. The Wall Street Journal’s Marc Myers in any event took the release of the disc as the occasion for an appreciative visit with Boz about the recording.

In 2009 we saw Boz perform live with a jazz combo in Minneapolis at the Dakota Restaurant and Jazz Club. Boz put on a beautiful show in an intimate setting, covering some of the standards he has recorded in recent years as well as reinterpreting his hits of the ’70′s. Boz is still lanky and cool after all these years. We loved the show.

Boz returned to town later that year with a new touring unit to play the State Theater before a sold-out crowd of old fans. With a larger audience the emphasis was naturally on his old hits rather than his new recordings. That night he spoke fondly of Minneapolis, recalling his first time through town many years ago at the old Guthrie Theater as well as subsequent stops at First Avenue.

I found it to be a completely satisfying show. Backed by a crack five-piece band and accompanied by vocal sidekick Monet Owens, Boz sounded better than ever. The Napa Valley Register enthusiastically reviewed the tour show. The Star Tribune’s Jon Bream wasn’t as impressed by the show, but the raucous baby boom crowd on hand in Minneapolis suggested to me that we’d like to see Boz back again some time soon.

In 2010 Boz returned, this time to the Minnesota State Fair on a cold and rainy night to perform with Donald Fagen and Michael McDonald. I thought Boz was the first among equals that night.

In concert Boz always plays his first hit, the irresistible “Lowdown.” I think I could name that tune in two notes from the drum riff alone. The video below is from the Greatest Hits Live DVD.

During the encore of his State Theater show in Minneapolis Boz played his smoldering version of Fenton Robinson’s “Loan Me a Dime,” one of the highlights of his debut solo album forty-plus years ago. The guitar solos inevitably brought the late Duane Allman’s contribution to the original recording to mind, but Boz’s vocal plumbed new depths. The man can sing.

The song is an extended outpouring of grief for love lost. In that encore the instruments cried it out, as did Boz’s vocal. The video below is also from Greatest Hits Live.

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