I’m always a little hesitant around the blues. My ex’s cool dad was into the blues and took us to see several local legends on the back patios of bars I wasn’t old enough to get into, and my ex himself played way too much goddamn Clapton. It was always something I enjoyed live, but struggled to get a foothold into.
So it would be easy to dismiss Out of the Blues as another late-career cash grab by an aging classic rock singer. It's what they do, after all, record some generic renditions of the Great American Songbook and phone in a tour, but Boz doesn't half-ass anything. This is the only singer who's ever been able to improve on a Steely Dan song, after all, with a cover of "Pearl of the Quarter" on 2013’s Memphis. Dukes of September cohort Donald Fagen once called him an "authentic Texas bluesman" and it shows here, picking up where 2015’s A Fool To Care left off in the third of a trilogy of albums that explore Scaggs blues roots. In Boz we trust.
Boz’ froggy voice, once a seductive croon, is well-worn and immensely textured, but a few of those classic notes can still be heard on “I’ve Just Got to Forget You,” while “Rock and Stick” sounds like the Boz we’ve heard emerge over the last few years. And it’s just so damn smooth on “Radiator 110,” the album’s standout.
There are a few new tracks on this album, written by Jack "Applejack" Walroth, with only “Little Miss Night and Day” having any Boz influence. And if anything, "Little Miss Night and Day" is the weakest song on the album. If it was on one of Boz’s classic records, it would be a standout, but on the shoulders of greats like Neil Young and Jimmy Reed, it feels like a pale imitation of the blues. I’m sure my ex would love it.
And it’s in these covers that Boz really has the room to play. Young’s “On The Beach” gets a rich treatment, deep and lonesome, followed by the deceptively easy walk of “Down in Virginia.” Boz is a man who knows his stuff and can pay homage, rather than whitewashing all the soul out of it.
Though the album is accessible to the casual blues listener, it may not immediately draw such a listener in to explore it deeper. That’s the downside of such a passion project—it requires a little more commitment than a fan of Silk Degrees (1976) might be willing to invest, but the long and short of it is this: Boz is an underappreciated legend and he can do whatever he wants.
Notable Tracks: “Radiator 101” | “Rock & Stick” | “On The Beach”