Eric Clapton, Peter Green, Alvin Lee, Robin Trower and the late Gary Moore... all part of British blues guitar legacy. But try to name someone who came of age after the 1960s and belongs in that company? Matt Schofield may be the one who should be the first mentioned. Named a top ten British blues guitarist of all time by Guitar And Bass Magazine, an impressive feat with only three studio albums out. Make that four, with last week's release of Anything But Time.
Schofield's recent piles of props makes sense when you listen to his records. He's got a stinging tone and knows how to craft a solo. Whereas Clapton owes much of his sound to B.B. King, Schofield's debt seems more owed to Albert King, and by association, Stevie Ray Vaughan. There's also that inescapable influence of Jimi Hendrix (more on this later). His vocal style is smooth for a blues guy, but I'm not complaining about it, either.
As on his other records, Schofield plays with an organ/drums/guitar trio, common in jazz but rather rare in the world of blues. When you hear his longtime Hammond B-3 sidekick Jonny Henderson so effectively work the bass pedals you wonder why this isn't done more often in blues bands. Kevin Hayes joins the trio behind the drum kit after eighteen years in Robert Cray's band.
For his fourth, Schofield headed down to New Orleans to record the album under the multiple Grammy-winning production touch of John Porter (Buddy Guy, B.B. King, Otis Rush). Brit expatriate and now Big Easy resident Jon Cleary joins the band for three tracks to add a second keyboardist. I mean, c'mon, there's just no way this wasn't going to be a good blues record.
Here's another part of the winning formula: great, original tunes. From the Stevie Ray Texas shuffle of Anything But Time" (video of live performance, above) to rich, organ-guitar chords on that slow funk number Where Do I Stand," the eight songs Schofield co-wrote with Dorothy Whittick have a pulse on modern blues, distilling the influences of the guys who came before him into songs the swing, rock and sway the soul. And though Schofield's radioactive guitar work ice the cake quite nicely, you'd like these tunes even if his guitar solos were pedestrian.
Moreover, there's something distinctive about each track that keeps it burned in your memory: One Look (And I'm Hooked)" gets the funk element by virtue of Cleary's clavinet, who works it in perfect tandem with Henderson's B-3, as Schofield transforms his usual boyish voice into a dangerous, sultry one. Cleary also puts in a piano for the straight-up blues of Don't Know What I'd Do." Dreaming Of You" is an explicit nod to the ballad side of Jimi Hendrix. Schofield spoke of revealing his full appreciation for the Hendrix school of rhythm guitar," but it's his riproaring solo that captures the most attention on that track.
It seems no decent contemporary blues record is without at least a cover or two and Schofield's got that taken care of. He follows each line with quick, hot licks on Albert King's Wrapped Up In Love," and makes an excellent choice in Steve Winwood's soulful At Times We Do Forget," a track snatched from Winwood's excellent last album Nine Lives.
Released on June 14 and available on Nugene Records, Anything But Time should keep Matt Schofield at the top of the current generation of British blues guitarists.