Published: Tuesday, March 19, 2013
Updated: Tuesday, March 19, 2013 22:03
Boz Scaggs’ Memphis should be a disaster—a crusty fixture of yuppie hi-fis and Adult Contemporary radio chasing the dollar bill by exploring blues and country.
But Scaggs has always been an unshakable professional, and aging has pleasantly mellowed out a man who many thought couldn’t get any mellower.
He doesn’t sound exactly like the guy who went platinum with the explosive white boy funk of “Lowdown” in 1976. His voice is fuzzier at the edges, even leathery. But it sure does sound distinguished when taking on the covers and bluesy originals of Memphis.
Having fully embraced the semi-derisive label of Yacht Rock by touring with fellow Yacht Rockers like Michael McDonald and Donald Fagen, Scaggs’ Memphis is akin to hanging out with a cool older uncle, always handy with a song and a bottle of apple brandy.
Recorded in just three days at the famed Royal Studios in Memphis, Tenn., the record has the DNA of the vibrant southern city running through it, with dusty and restrained takes on Willy DeVille’s “Cadillac Walk” and “Mixed Up, Shook Up Girl,” and a version of “Rainy Night In Georgia,” a ballad that Brook Benton made famous when Scaggs was just getting off the ground.
It’s fascinating that Scaggs throws in a solid cover of Steely Dan’s “Pearl Of The Quarter.” The contrast between Dan in 1973, hungry and loud, and Scaggs in 2013, softer but still adventurous, shows that Yacht Rock has more longevity and moxie than its sneering detractors would ever admit.