“The blues, for me, made sense of everything,” said Anthony Gomes after a recent high-energy show at The Stanhope House. “I love Jimi Hendrix and I love a lot of rock ‘n’ roll music, but when I heard B.B. King, it all came together for me. It was sort of like I was on the outside looking in, and when I heard the blues I was on the inside for the first time. I understood what was out there and it was a great feeling.
“So the blues, to me, is the truth.”
The skilled guitarist and frontman — who is originally from Toronto, though he now calls St. Louis home — says playing blues music is “about passion, personality and soulfulness. It’s great that fans of other bands take these wonderful journeys, but that journey gets limited, sometimes, to a certain period of time, and then you have 100 bands that sound like each other and you’ve sort of exhausted that experiment.
“After that, people have to come back to the touchstone. It’s sort of like visiting your parents: You go back home to mom and dad and you realize where you came from. I think the blues does that for people: It really reminds them of where the music came from.”
Gomes released a new album, Peace, Love & Loud Guitars, in October. “It’s doing really well for us,” he said. “Blues Rock Review and SoundGuardian magazine both voted it album of the year, and we made most of the blues lists for the best album. It was our 13th release and it’s pretty cool to make the best album of your career in your 40s. A lot of my peers are sort of hanging it up or not gigging as much as they used to, and I feel like we’re just actually beginning the story and starting to catch our stride, and it’s just a wonderful feeling.
‘I think that when you make an album, it’s so different than when you play live, and most people are used to you playing live. When you’re making an album you’re sort of like a kid in a candy store. You can try 17 guitar overdubs and you can have a lot of fun experimenting and creating, but I think the essence of who you are when you play live gets lost. I think on this record I really tried to capture that live essence and who I was as an artist, and people have really responded to that. And it’s also a lot more rocked up than a lot of our other releases. I think that the world is ready for some blues rock ‘n’ roll.”
When Gomes hits the road, he does so with a different set of players than the ones he records with in the studio.
“On the album, I have Greg Morrow, who is the most recorded drummer, I think, in history, period. He’s the most recorded drummer in country music. He’s played on so many other records: Billy Gibbons albums, Lynyrd Skynyrd records. He’s just a superb drummer.
“I have Michael Brignardello, who used to be in a band called Giant back in the day, and he’s a fine, fine bass player. We had the power trio from hell (laughs) and it was a lot of fun.”
Fun is the name of the game when you’re a working musician, or at least that’s how it all starts out. Gomes has a great mindset about the careers of others as well as his own.
“I just think that we have a different outlook. In the ’60s and ’70s, it was ‘better to burn out than fade away,’ and now Jeff Beck is 74 and playing guitar like a beast. People are taking care of themselves, and if you keep yourself in a real healthy place you can have a lot of longevity as an artist and still be relevant, artistically. Then on the other side, you still have the artists that are still doing the big money grab and they should’ve hung it up a long time ago.”
All musicians have to start somewhere. Most get influenced by a family member; others, not so much. Gomes was lucky enough to have family influences as well as one of the greatest players of all time as a mentor.
His father listened to classical music and his mother liked artists like Elvis Presley and Chuck Berry. “The first band that I really liked was AC/DC,” he says. “I was 10 years old when Back in Black came out and I wore that thing out, so I tended to gravitate towards blues-rock music. So AC/DC or Zeppelin or Hendrix or Aerosmith or anything like that, and what I realized later on was that it was the blues part that made the difference to me.
“I was in college and I was playing at a little jam night and somebody came up to me at the end and said, ‘Hey man, it’s great that a young man is into the blues. Who’s your favorite guitar player?’ I said B.B. King and he said, ‘I thought so, I’m his bus driver,’ and he really was B.B.’s personal bus driver, so I got to meet B.B and every couple of years we got to do a little stretch of dates with him, and he was a great mentor. So when he left us it was a hard blow to the blues, (and) to me personally, to have that guy who was so humble and so nurturing to so many people, was a great loss.”
With the success of Peace, Love & Loud Guitars, which has topped several blues charts and been called his best yet, does he feel any pressure to top this effort with his next release?
“It’s good pressure,” he said. “It’s sort of like I feel that I’ve made one really great album and I think I have a better understanding on how to do that. So … I’ve been writing up a storm, and I’m more excited than intimidated by recording a new one. I think this fall we’ll be back in the studio, or maybe summer, and I think we’ll be doing the release a record/tour for a year, release a record/tour for a year for the next little while. I don’t think it gets better than that, when you can create music, then go out and support it.”
Gomes said “there’s a lot of great blues and rock ‘n’ roll coming out now; it’s exciting that people are making this kind of music again.”
People all over the world, of course.
“I’m a white boy from the Toronto suburbs. I tell people if you’re white and Canadian it’s like being white twice,” he said, with a laugh. “I just found the blues … it came knocking, and it’s a testament to the music that somebody from Canada can be turned on by the blues. Look at all of the great blues rock people from England, or Rory Gallagher from Ireland. There are people in Japan playing the hell out of the blues, China, and now even South America. It’s really exciting: The blues started in Mississippi and started from horrible conditions of slavery and injustice and discrimination, and it has grown into a beautiful music that … includes everybody around the world. That’s a testament to the healing power of the blues.”
For more about Gomes, visit anthonygomes.com.
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