It’s been 40 years since Boz Scaggs released his breakthrough album, “Silk Degrees,” which spawned the hits “Lido Shuffle,” “It’s Over,” “What Can I Say,” and the Grammy-winning blues track “Lowdown.”
And while he laid low for most of the 1980s, since 1994 he’s been plying his signature mesh of pop, R&B and soul on albums that have topped the Billboard jazz and blues charts.
His most recent album, 2015’s “A Fool to Care,” continued that trend, hitting No. 1 on the blues chart and peaking at 52 on the Top 200. He’s just starting a new tour for “A Fool to Care,” and Spokane will be an early stop.
Scaggs recorded the rhythm tracks in Nashville, then finished it at his home studio in Napa, California. The actual recording session, with his core group of musicians – Steve Jordan (drums), Ray Parker Jr. (guitar) and Willie Weeks (bass) – lasted only about a week.
“They’re all very seasoned pros,” he said in a phone interview from his home. “We know what to do. … We don’t know exactly what we’re going to do when we get in there, but we know it’s going to happen.”
The album is mostly covers of old R&B and soul songs, including tunes made famous by Curtis Mayfield, Al Green, Huey P. Smith, the Spinners and Fats Domino. The one Scaggs original, “Hell to Pay,” features guest vocals (and slide guitar work) by Bonnie Raitt. Lucinda Williams teams with Scaggs on the Band’s “Whispering Pines,” an “aching duet,” Rolling Stone wrote, where the “emotion conveyed proves that, in the end, soul is where you find it.”
Digging into the past to find these songs has been a joy for Scaggs. It’s something he started doing in earnest when he was working with Donald Fagen and Michael McDonald on their trio Dukes of September Rhythm Revue beginning in 2010.
The three of them would collaborate online, he said, “making lists of hundreds of songs that we might want to do together,” mining rhythm and blues, roots blues, New Orleans roots, “the gamut.”
“I would almost call it a hobby if it weren’t our profession. Because it’s fun to go through that material,” Scaggs said. “And it was all of course with an eye toward preforming it on our shows. … It’s fun and interesting going through all these songs and trying to find the ones we think we can give a good reading to.”
He was still firming up the set list at the time of this conversation, but the music from the “A Fool to Care” and its predecessor, 2013’s “Memphis,” have been sitting well with fans. Still, those hoping to do a little “Lido Shuffle” won’t be disappointed when Scaggs performs at the Fox this weekend.
“The old stuff goes really well with the new stuff,” he said. “They’re kind of coming from a very similar place. It works really well. Plus there will be some surprises. I have a really great band. … Really extraordinary musicians who play a great range of material with me.”
The seven-piece outfit also travels with a singer, Monet, who has been with Scaggs for several years.
“She steals the show every night,” he said. “And I’m totally OK with that. I adore her.”
When he’s not on the road, he’ll be at work pulling together the material for his next album. Once the tour ends in November, he said, “I can go to work finishing it. That should give me a spring release.”
While the past two albums were recorded in Tennessee – Memphis and Nashville – this next one he thinks he’ll do on the West Coast. It’ll also probably feature more Boz Scaggs originals.
In the meantime, he’s looking forward to spending the next few months on tour.
“It used to be during a long touring spell, I would after a number of weeks start counting the weeks or the days until the tour was over,” he said. “There was a point a few years ago when that just stopped. It’s like, ‘it’s over when it’s over,’ and I miss it when I’m not (on the road). After a couple weeks of cooling off, I start really thinking about the next time we go out. I really enjoy it.”
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