Bay Area musician-impresario Boz Scaggs dubbed his latest disc simply "Memphis." That's where the album was recorded, at the late Willie Mitchell's historic Royal Studios, with stellar session men like bassist Willie Weeks, keyboardist Spooner Oldham and guitarist Ray Parker Jr. It features two bluesy new originals, the opening "Gone Baby Gone" and a closing "Sunny Gone." In between? Scaggs' soulful takes on standards like "Corrina, Corrina," "Rainy Night in Georgia" and two Mink DeVille classics, "Cadillac Walk" and "Mixed Up, Shook Up Girl." Every last note tastes Memphis-smoked.
Nothing against any record you've done before or after — but you made "Silk Degrees," one of the most perfect albums in rock history. How do you feel about it in retrospect? "Silk Degrees" really kicked the ball down the field. It was my sixth or seventh album, so my number came up, you know? It was the right time and the right place, and a real boost to my career. And even to this day, people want to hear those songs and relive those moments. So I've always got aces in my deck, so to speak.
You've also got one of the most idiosyncratic singing voices around. When did you first notice you had your own style? Style comes after a long time. In the beginning, I could carry a tune, and we were emulating early rhythm-and-blues songs when I first started playing live. So I guess it was probably when I started writing my own songs that my own vocal style started to emerge. And then one gets to recognize his or her own style, and you start learning to build on that, until you become more of a stylist yourself. I did a couple of albums of standards that were the most challenging to me, as a vocalist. So that's something that I'll always be working on.
You could have stepped out of showbiz and simply run your clubs, Slim's and Great American Music Hall. What keeps you going? Well, I'm not a businessman by a long shot. But I'll put it in these terms — I've got a band together with Donald Fagen and Mike McDonald (The Dukes of September), and we did about 50 shows last year. And we all really like this association that we have, and I can't wait to get back together with them this year. So this is what I do. I have to. I feel like it's emotionally important, it's fulfilling, it's my work. It's like an itch you have to scratch. Until those songs work their way out of your head.Boz Scaggs & Michael McDonald
Where: Mountain Winery, 14831 Pierce Road, Saratoga
When: 7:30 p.m. Saturday
Tickets: $45 to $125
Contact: (408) 741-2822, www.axs.com
Note: Scaggs and McDonald also headline Stern Grove's season-opening concert at 2 p.m. Sunday at 19th Avenue and Sloat Boulevard., S.F. Admission is free. It is preceded by "The Big Picnic" benefit at 11 a.m. Tickets are $250-$500. Call (415) 625-6004 or visit www.sterngrove.org.