july 2011

On the majority of these 10 tracks, which are mostly co-written originals, Schofield uses just a touch less grit than most blues players rely on these days.

Matt Schofield
Anything But Time
Nugene Records

This fourth record from Matt Schofield continues the British bluesman’s trend of upping the ante with each move he seems to make. That’s not an easy task when you consider that he and his last album, Heads, Tails & Aces, won the 2010 British Blues Awards for both Guitarist of the Year and Album of the Year. Anything But Time, which was helmed by veteran blues producer John Porter (B.B. King, Buddy Guy, Otis Rush) suggests that Schofield is looking to repeat the feat while winning even more fans and accolades as he supports the album with a US tour this summer.

On the majority of these 10 tracks, which are mostly co-written originals, Schofield uses just a touch less grit than most blues players rely on these days. Paired with his Texas blues-leaning chops that emphasize meaty, sustained notes and vibrato over the shrednastics between them, the result is a modern blues guitar vocabulary that can still plumb some of the more vulnerable depths you might normally associate with the likes of B.B. King or Robert Cray. Schofield fronts a tight trio with drummer Kevin Hayes and keyboard player Jonny Henderson, whose dripping B-3 parts and funky Wurlitzer rhythms stay tightly fused with his left hand as it holds down the group’s low-end. Standout tracks include the Booker T-esque “Anything But Time,” jump number “Don’t Know What I’d Do,” a tremendous nod to Hendrix called “Dreaming of You,” and slow churner “Where Do I Have to Stand.” Schofield also puts his own mark on Albert King’s “Wrapped Up in Love,” and Steve Winwood’s “At Times We Do Forget,” driving each with vocals that are as strong as his guitar playing.

Like some of the famous British bluesmen before him, Schofield’s approach to his craft is anchored by a remarkable respect for the blues, but complemented by a brilliant sense of what the genre has to offer, which is particularly appealing to guitar players. No longer just a guitarist to keep an eye out for, Schofield has arrived, and Anything But Time cements his status as an important contemporary bluesman.

While the Barcelona is built principally for a crystal-clean headroom, Bogner also threw in a Gain control for added versatility.


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What part of the human consciousness created this instrument, this wizard’s wand, this hypnotic tool? And, more importantly, why?

Gibson says its SG Gothic Morte is “a radical reincarnation of a guitar that was born to be wild.” Ready for an exorcism? Photo courtesy of Gibson Guitars

I witnessed an exorcism last night. The exorcism was conducted by one very beat-up Gibson SG. The person whose demons were exorcised was a young woman in the front row of a Greenhornes show. The only thing missing was green projectile vomit.

But before I go into that more, I want to discuss a couple of deep questions. And I want to go beyond “Can a guitar have a soul?” I’ll start with a simple question: Is the human consciousness the result of a higher power? Well, if you’re spiritual, or believe in God, ghosts, or Ouija boards, or if you feel uneasy if a black cat runs in front of your car, or have any other number of superstitions or spiritual beliefs, you should’ve answered “yes.” If we are truly connected to something—something we just can’t comprehend or agree on—we can at least agree on some simple truths. There is joy and sadness, darkness and light, wickedness and righteousness, good and evil.

What does this have to do with the guitar? Well, I’m wondering where the guitar came from. What part of the human consciousness created this instrument, this wizard’s wand, this hypnotic tool? And, more importantly, why? Stay with me here.

Albert Einstein once wrote of “spooky action at a distance”—things we just don’t understand. And I think most of us believe in some spooky stuff we don’t understand.

Now back to the exorcism/ rock show. As I observed the crowd, I saw plenty of alcohol, some drugs, and women and men prowling for deviant-behaving partners. Through the smoke-filled room, I could see small groups huddled in black leather jackets giving their attention to the stage as the electric guitar gave it’s sermon. This was no church. This was no Mormon youth convention.

I thought about a book I’ve just read, The Lennon Prophecies. It’s a well-written book that makes the case that John Lennon may have sold his soul to the devil to become the biggest rock star in the world. I know, what a bunch of crap, right?

But after reading The Lennon Prophecies, I’m kind of freaked out. In the author’s view, Lennon commits the ultimate act of blasphemy against the Church (one of the requirements from the story of Faust)—he turns a generation away from it:
Christianity will go. It will vanish and shrink. I needn’t argue with that; I’m right and I will be proved right. We’re more popular than Jesus now. —John Lennon March 4, 1964.
Some believe you can’t choose to go down to the crossroads—you don’t choose to sell your soul. Something chooses you and you allow it. The book contends that Lennon understood this and started seeking help from Christian leaders before his death—a death he predicted.

I began to think about the guitar and its role in all this. Is it a creation of man or is it a creation of something else? Is it magic? A product of the dark side? Or just another innovative manifestation of the human consciousness? Which takes us back to that nagging question: What is human consciousness? I’m not the only one who feels there might be something spooky going on here.

One of my favorite poems was found inscribed into a 17th-century lute:
Was alive in the forest. I was cut by the cruel axe. In life, I was silent. In death,
I sweetly sing.

A few hundred years later, the Gypsies of Andaluc’a used the 6-string as a tool to seduce their women into trance, eventually creating the flamenco dance. In the early 20thcentury, the guitar became the soundtrack to the darkness of poverty, suffering, and heartbreak in a dark form of the blues epitomized by the likes of Howlin’ Wolf ’s lyric, “I asked for water, she brought me gasoline.” And, of course, later in that century, in Britain’s ghostliest city of Liverpool, the modern rock band was conceived.

In the Bible, God cursed the ground so that men would have to work hard. It seems to me this thing called the guitar might be cursed as well—work it hard and enjoy the fame, fortune, wine, and women. But beware, the devil’s curse comes with a price. I have no proof of any of this. That’s the thing about this kind of stuff— there’s never any proof, just a gut feeling. There is never any proof of religion, just faith. Practice hard, my friends.

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