Boz Scaggs is staying on the standards path for his next album.

Boz Scaggs is staying on the standards path for his next album.

Scaggs -- who's currently finalizing a label deal for the planned September release of "Speak Low" -- tells Billboard.com that the follow-up to 2003's "But Beautiful" is "a sort of progressive, experimental effort ... along the lines of some of the ideas that Gil Evans explored."

Scaggs says the set features "unusual instrumentation" that includes a string trio, bass woodwinds and harp. "It was very challenging to me as a vocalist," he notes.

Songs on the album include Chet Baker's "She Was Too Good To Be True," Johnny Mercer's "This Time the Dream's on Me," the oft-recorded Billy Taylor/Dick Dallas hit "I Wish I Knew How It Would Feel to Be Free" and the Kurt Weill/Ogden Nash title track. Scaggs says he and collaborator Gil Goldstein considered nearly 50 songs and recorded 17 for the project.

"I'm a vocalist," Scaggs says. "I come more out of a blues/rhythm & blues background, but this is a different way of using my voice, and much more musically challenging and adventurous for me."

Scaggs isn't going to stay fixed on standards, however. He says his next recording "will be a more bluesy, rhythm & blues album. I don't think I'll be writing any pop songs or in that genre, whatever that is these days. I'm just following my instincts. I haven't lost my interest in doing what I've always done, but it doesn't preclude or exclude anything else."

Another future direction, in fact, may be bluegrass. At last year's Hardly Strictly Bluegrass festival in San Francisco, Scaggs played with an ad hoc group that included Buddy Miller on guitar, Jon Cleary on keyboards and Greg Leisz on steel guitar. "I had more fun in that collaboration than I've had in a long time," Skaggs reports. "We were playing everything from Hank Williams to Jerry Lee Lewis to early Elvis (Presley) and Bill Monroe.

"I'm sort of following that interest up a little bit," he adds. "We'll be playing that festival again this year, and I may be making a recording in some way or another with those guys. It's really fun."

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