The dirty, dirty lowdown on Boz Scaggs

By Will Siss - Republican-American - June 19, 2008

When Boz Scaggs hits the stage Friday night at Torrington's Warner Theatre, he'll certainly be displaying the R&B standards that got today's middle-agers shakin' booty during the Carter presidency.

But during a phone interview on Tuesday, Scaggs said he was eager to highlight the talents of his nine-piece band and young, opening act guitarist, David Jcaobs-Strain.

"We'll be playing mostly songs that people have heard on the radio, a pretty even mix of ballads and medium-tempo rhythm and blues," Scaggs said in a gentle Southern accent that revealed his Texas upbringing. "We've got some terrific soloists."

Scaggs knows from soloists: the legendary Duane Allman played on Scaggs' U.S. solo debut in 1968, thus continuing a career that included stops in early 1970s West Coast R&B to unexpectedly soulful disco-era songwriting, a synthesizer-laden return to pop radio in the late 1980s, and back to blues and roots rock this century.

Scaggs, 64, emphasized that he and his band are "not on automatic" when they perform.

"People always ask me how I keep it fresh," Scaggs said from Philadelphia. "People think it's routine. They'd be surprised how little routine there is. It's a different feel, depending on the room, the atmosphere. Every stage is different. We're really listening during the show, trying to find the sweet spot, find the groove. It varies."

Among the hits Scaggs will interpret are several from his 1976 breakthrough album, "Silk Degrees," from which emerged "Lowdown," "Lido Shuffle" and "Harbor Lights."

Scaggs's 1980 jazz and synthesizer-tinged "Middle Man" yielded "Jo Jo" and "Simone," then the trim balladeer took a break to run a San Francisco restaurant.

Scaggs returned with the seriously syrupy hit "Heart of Mine" in 1988.

He's returned to the studio sporadically since then, primarily recording greatest hits and cover albums that emphasize Scaggs' love for Southern blues and jazz.

His most recent album of original songs was 2001's "Dig."

Scaggs said he plans to put out a new album of mostly original songs, and was working on a song Monday night. "I work best in hotel rooms and in situations outside of my normal experiences," he said.

"With songwriting, the tendency is to go back to the recurring themes," which in Scaggs' case is often love and loss of love. "Much of it comes out of personal experiences. But it's hard to know where they come from."

Scaggs said he was particularly proud to tour with David Jacobs-Strain, a Delta-blues- influenced picker and slide-guitarist from Oregon.

"I don't know if there will be any surprises," Scaggs said of his shows, "but there's no fixed set. And certainly the musicians are something to look out for."

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