In 1969, after leaving the Steve Miller Band, Boz Scaggs released his first U.S. solo album. Over the next dozen years he attained, first critical and then popular success, with the high point coming in 1976 with the release of the multi-million selling Silk Degrees. From 1981 to 1993 Scaggs released but a single album which was neither the critical nor a commercial success of his earlier work. For most artists that would mean game over, or, at minimum, time to start bookings on the Geezer Tour. Fortunately, beginning with the 1994 album, Some Change, we have seen a revitalized Scaggs. With that album he updated his '70s blue-eyed soul sound by adding a darker edge and the work was a modest commercial success and an even stronger critical hit. The follow-up, Come On Home, was a remarkable review of his roots. Largely covers of R&B classics from the '40s to the '60s, the album showed us a stripped down, driven and dynamic Scaggs. The uncluttered settings spot lighted a voice that has deepened over the years yet has retained its clear, seductive edge. While the album sold moderately well, the fact that it failed to reach the commercial success of Silk Degrees is commentary on the music market and not the album. With Dig, Scaggs turns again to R&B, but this time he samples the field from the '70s through the '90s.
The album opener, "Payday", in both lyrical and musical stance could have come from a great, undiscovered 1970's Muscle Shoals session. While modern touches, including dance floor bass and a distorted rhythm track open the song, it is the funky guitar work by Scaggs, Danny Kortchmar and Ray Parker Jr., along with the horns of Roy Hargrove Jr. that define and elevate the tune. Miss Riddle is a state-of-the-art studio ballad that also uses Roy Hargrove Jr. to set up a late night shuffle against a layered background of synths, drum programming and acoustic piano highlights. The R&B tour even includes a rap song, "Get On The Natch", wherein we are advised that, "it's not about simple thirsts and hungers but satisfying your soul". Desire, covers the same lyrical ground as Lowdown did on Silk Degrees, but at a slower and more heartfelt approach. Call That Love and You're Not are mid-tempo dance tunes that showcase tight rhythm under tales of soured relationships while the final track "Thanks To You", with pedal steel by Steve Lukather and more horns by Hargrove, is a 2 AM muse on the love that makes living bearable. Interestingly, Scaggs wrote all the lyrics for the album (sharing credits on 3 of the 11 songs) but either allowed others to pen the tunes or to share musical chores on all but two songs, and of all the songs on the album it is one of those two, "King Of El Paso", that is the most distinctive track on the album. Featuring a nasty blues lead by Kortchmar and superb backing vocals by Monet, the cautionary tale of sensual consumption is as classic a track as "Loan Me A Dime" is from his first album.
Dig is a worthy survey and demonstration of modern R&B. For those who have followed Scaggs this may not come as a surprise. For the rest of you, check it out. And then pick up Come On Home to complete the history lesson.