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Heads, Tails & Aces

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Album Review

It won't take long for even a fan of U.K. blues-jazz guitarist Matt Schofield to realize that this is his most focused, blues-oriented album to date. The opening track, "What I Wanna Hear," sets up an easygoing shuffle landing somewhere between Texas and Chicago as Schofield's laid-back yet emotional voice digs into the sparse, insistent groove, propelled by Jonny Henderson's organ. When the guitarist lets loose, it's a solo that's wired from the heart, plowing into the arrangement with a lean, mean tone that slithers and glides above the walking bass beat. It's a six-minute tour de force that fades out, leaving the listener wanting more. Fortunately there's plenty where that came from on the ten additional songs from Schofield's fourth release. His plaintive vocals and sizzling guitar have often, and correctly, been compared to Robben Ford, but on Heads, Tails & Aces, Schofield's terrific songs give him a slight edge over Ford due to the latter's often inconsistent material. The U.K. talent has been honing his recordings since his 2004, debut but tunes such as the soulful ballad "War We Wage" show that he's now an accomplished songwriter whose music, while blues-based, can easily cross over to a larger audience. He wrote or co-composed all but two tracks, as well as producing the disc. Schofield's songs effectively avoid the dreaded blues clichés so common to the genre with sharp, well-conceived lyrics, and unexpectedly skillful melodies that borrow just enough from pop to make them memorable. His jazzier chops shine on the Steely Dan-styled "Nothing Left," letting scatting guitar lines float above the verses, then taking flight on the song's solo section. A few covers round out the album with Schofield digging into "Woman Across the River" (performed by Freddie King) and Elmore James' "Stranger Blues" with class, verve, and intensity. The closing ballad "Not Raining Now" is yet another gem, an Eric Clapton-influenced tune that lets Schofield's guitar lines drizzle through this R&B-influenced romp. It concludes a superb set that proves the U.K. blues roots artist might just be getting warmed up to become one of the major contemporary stars in his overcrowded field.


Born: August, 1977 in Manchester, England

Genre: Blues

Years Active: '00s

The leader of the Matt Schofield trio (obviously) and a well traveled and talented blues guitarist, Matt Schofield was born in Manchester, England on August 21, 1977. Spurred into the world of the blues guitar by legends such as Stevie Ray Vaughan, B.B. King, and Albert Collins, Schofield took his curiosity to London after graduating college, and started to jam with various musicians in the scene. Catching the ear of one Dana Gillespie -- after a successful stint as part of the Lee Sankey Group --...
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Heads, Tails & Aces, Matt Schofield
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