Remembering: Boz Scaggs, “Come On Home”
by Nick DeRiso
This was, I always thought, the record that Boz Scaggs should have been making. Come On Home is a rocking, rib-sticking roux of blues, R&B and soul in small-band configurations. Scaggs might add some horns, but that’s about it.
The master of the silky smooth 1970s lover-man ballad, he actually started out digging this stuff. The story goes that Scaggs, growing up in Plano, Texas, heard T-Bone Walker’s “Blues for Mary Lee” on the radio — and he was hooked.
Jimmy Reed and the big-band rhythm groups led by Ray Charles were key influences, it’s clear. He later played for a time in an early, more blues-based version of the Steve Miller Band. His first, rarely heard solo album even featured a 12-minute meltdown groover called “Loan Me a Dime” featuring Duane Allman.
Scaggs slowly drifted, however, into the mainstream. His sound, through subsequent hit albums in the middle 1970s (including guilty pleasures like Slow Dancer and Silk Degrees), would eventually evolve into a listenable, but ultimately lightweight hybrid — something aptly described by Rolling Stone back then as “Southern blues sensibilities mixed with city soul.”
These over-produced, sometimes guitar-free radio staples only hinted at Scaggs’ heady ease with the great American music styles.
Come On Home puts all of that together, a triumph decades in the making. Scaggs, when he wanted, always had the chops back then. “Come On Home” made it clear that he still did. There are the expected, and terrific, nods to Charles, Reed, Walker and Bobby “Blue” Bland, but also moving new sides like “Goodnight Louise” — featuring ace sessions players Jim Keltner on drums and Daryl Johnson on bass.
Music of “humanity and soul” (those are Scaggs’ words, in describing the towering achievements of Reed and Bland), Come On Home is as welcome as it is timeless. He was picking again, for one thing — and on some unforgettable cuts.
Scaggs even takes some tasty lead solos on “It All Went Down the Drain,” “Love Letters,” “I’ve Got Your Love,” “Sick and Tired” (co-written by New Orleans music legend Dave Bartholomew, by the way) and Walker’s “T-Bone Shuffle.”
It’s almost enough to erase the cavity-causing memory of that tune from “Urban Cowboy.”