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© Deborah Feingold
In a music-making career that has spanned almost 50 years, Boz Scaggs is amazed at how little things have changed. "My first album was done in two days," he says. "We knocked it right out, kind of like what I did with my new album, Memphis – that one was done in three days. The circle is almost complete."
Since making his debut with 1965's Boz, which he followed with a two-year stint as the lead singer for the Steve Miller Band before setting solo sail once again, Scaggs has spun magic with a rich, unpredictable genre-mash of R&B, pop-rock and jazz, scoring both critical hits and epic mainstream knockouts with the kind of personal artistry that makes everything he does feel realistic.
“Music is in some ways a muse," Scaggs says. "But in other ways it’s an occupation, and in other ways it’s a habit. It takes all of those forms, because you’re always creating something different – lyrics, music, a set list, a band. You can get caught up thing about all of that stuff, but then sometimes you just have to bang it out. That’s when it becomes an adrenaline freak-out, which can actually produce what a muse cannot."
Scaggs has sometimes spaced albums eight years apart, but he seems to be picking up the pace once again - Memphis follows his last release, Speak Low, by only five years. Recorded at the legendary Royal Studios in the town that inspired its title, the album sees Scaggs and producer Steve Jordan guiding an ace band through an eclectic, superbly arranged group of covers (by such songwriters as Willy Deville, Moon Martin and Al Green, among others) and two sparking originals. In his own appealing and highly idiosyncratic way, Scaggs explores New Orleans R&B, '70s soul, rock 'n' roll, jazz and early blues with a kind of intimacy that gets to the heart of the genres' many and varied mysteries.
On the following pages, Scaggs talks about how he crafted Memphis while reflecting on the creation of eight notable studio discs from his storied career.