Rolling Stone - 4 stars out of 5 -- "These 12 songs map out a concise history of American soul, with a heavy dose of New Orleans strut..."
Boz Scaggs follows 2013's killer Memphis with a second Tennessee album. A Fool to Care was recorded over four days with producer/drummer Steve Jordan and a core band of guitarist Ray Parker, Jr. and bassist Willie Weeks at Nashville's Blackbird Studio. These 12 songs are primarily covers that reflect various sources, the most prevalent among them being R&B and soul. The band is augmented occasionally with strings, horns, and Music City luminaries including guitarists Reggie Young and Al Anderson and pedal steel boss Paul Franklin. Simply put, there is no filler here -- virtually every song is a highlight. The opener is a swaggering, horn-drenched presentation of Dorothy LaBostrie and McKinley Millet's "Rich Woman." Scaggs' reading is inspired by Li'l Millet & His Creoles' 1955 version more than Canned Heat's or Robert Plant and Alison Krauss'. The title track was cut as a country swing tune by author Ted Daffan in 1940. Scaggs reads it through the New Orleans R&B of Fats Domino. And speaking of NOLA, Bobby Charles and Rick Danko's "Small Town Talk" is executed flawlessly with slippery breaks by Jordan and a simmering B-3 by Jim Cox. "Hell to Pay" is an original, a badass blues driven by Weeks' funky upright bass. Sung in duet with Bonnie Raitt (who also plays mean slide here), Scaggs takes an all too rare guitar solo. "Last Tango on 16th Street" melds Carlos Gardel, West Coast jazz, and Brechtian drama. Scaggs' delivery is full of restrained empathy, not pity. His version of Richard Hawley's otherworldly waltz "There's a Storm a Comin'" features Franklin's pedal steel crying amid accordion, bass, bump organ, and B-3. It is an elegant outlier here. Scaggs offers Curtis Mayfield's "I'm So Proud" with an expressive falsetto that would make the composer proud. Huey P. Smith's 1958 classic "High Blood Pressure" is rendered raw, ragged, and raucous. That shimmering falsetto returns to Memphis in a grooving version of Al Green's "Full of Fire" before slipping toward smooth Philly soul with a gorgeous take on the Spinners' 1974 classic "Love Don't Love Nobody." But Scaggs saves the very best for last. He teams with Lucinda Williams for Richard Manuel's (the Band) "Whispering Pines." Franklin's steel returns in a breezy, warm, atmospheric arrangement that relies on the depth in Jordan's floor tom-toms. The contrast between Williams' bluesy, grainy contralto and Scaggs' soul-basted croon underscores the wrenching heartbreak in the lyric. Ultimately, A Fool to Care is not only a companion to Memphis, but also to 1997's Come on Home and his earliest (pre-Silk Degrees) sides. Scaggs' voice is unmarked by time. Whether singing new or old songs, he presents them in the moment as living, breathing entities. He remains a song interpreter who has few -- if any -- peers. ~ Thom Jurek