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Anthony Gomes: Canadian Bluesman
By Danny Coleman
originally published: 06/24/2019
“The blues, for me, made sense of everything,” said Anthony Gomes, a blues artist from Toronto who currently calls St. Louis home. “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, to me, the blues is the truth.”
Thirteen albums later, Gomes is still full of passion for his craft, touring, and blues music. A skilled guitarist and front man, he is very much in sync with today’s music, the role that the blues played, and continues to play music regardless of the genre.
“The blues is the truth, it’s the foundation and it’s about passion, personality and soulfulness,” he stated with confidence and conviction. “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 a hundred bands that sound like each other and you’ve sort of exhausted that experiment and 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 and I think the blues does that for people; it really reminds them of where the music came from.”
In April, Gomes played The Stanhope House where he delivered a “high energy, soul infused, fist pumping, guitar face melting extravaganza” that rocked the joint to its very core. Afterwards he spoke about his latest disc and his career.
“I released, Peace, Love & Loud Guitars in October and it’s doing really well for us. Blues Rock Review and Sound Guardian Magazine both voted it Album of the Year and we made most of the blues lists for the best album,” said Gomes. “It was our thirteenth release and it’s pretty cool to make the best album of your career in your forties; 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.”
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“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,” continued Gomes. “When you’re making an album you’re sort of like a kid in a candy store. You can try 17 guitar overdubs and 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 tried to capture that live essence and who I was as an artist, and people have responded to that. 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. I think that’s what it is.”
When Gomes hits the road he does so with a different set of players than the ones he records with in studio but he has no problem giving credit where it’s due.
“We have a different band that we tour with than we record with,” explained Gomes. “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 and has played on everything from Billy Gibbons albums to 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 mind set about the careers of others as well as his own.
“I just think that we have a different outlook,” added Gomes. “In the ‘60’s and ‘70’s 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. A lot of these guys like Paul Rodgers who is in his late sixties is a great singer and is still singing and he’s better than ever.”
Classic rockers, blues artists, and all musicians had to start somewhere; many get influenced by a family member. Gomes was lucky enough to have influences as well as one of the greatest players of all time as a mentor.
“My dad listened to classical music and my mom listened to Elvis and Chuck Berry,” said Gomes. “So I heard those things around the house. Then I started listening to my mom’s Elvis albums and I started to dig on that. The first band that I really liked was AC/DC. I was 10 years old when Back In Black came out and I wore that thing out. I tended to gravitate towards blues rock music — AC/DC or Zeppelin or Hendrix or Aerosmith or anything like that. 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.’” recalled Gomes. “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. He was a great mentor. When he left us it was a hard blow to the blues but to me personally, to have that guy who was so humble and so nurturing to so many people was a great loss. B.B. was a great mentor to me personally as well as many other people.”
With the success of Peace, Love & Loud Guitars which has topped several charts and been called “his best yet,” does he feel any pressure to top this effort with his next release?
“It’s good pressure, 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,” stated Gomes. “So I’m more excited and 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 we’ll be doing a record tour for a year. I don’t think it gets better than that when you can create music then go out and support it. We released this last one in October and it’s still doing really well. This album has a lot of legs. Today it seems like you release a record on Friday and by Saturday it’s old news. I’m very fortunate.”
People have said that blues and rock music are dead or passé but Gomes doesn’t see it that way.
“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 hearty laugh. “I just found the blues or it found me, 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 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’s inclusive and includes everybody around the world. That’s a testament to the healing power of the blues. I think 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.”