Blues giants inspired guitar great Gomes

Anthony Gomes was born and raised in Toronto, but in his early 20s he pulled a Muddy Waters and moved to Chicago, where he found a sweet home for four years before heading off to his current base of Nashville. As he explains in a call from “the mountains of Arizona”, en route to a show in Las Vegas, Gomes relocated to the Windy City because he wanted to be part of a great pool of musicians.

“I moved there to learn how to play the blues,” he says, “and then I moved to Nashville to learn how to write a song.”

Before setting up camp in Music City, Gomes made an impression on the Chicago blues scene when his group “upset the apple cart” and was chosen Best Unsigned Blues Band of 1998 at an awards show held at Buddy Guy's famed nightclub, Legends. Although Gomes is a big fan of Guy, only one stellar bluesman, B.B. King, gets a nod in the liner notes of Gomes's recently released fourth CD, Music Is the Medicine. “We toured with B.B. last year,” he explains, “so we had to thank him for being so kind. And what an inspiration. I mean, you can't play electric guitar without B.B. King being an influence.”

The CD was produced by Jim Gaines, who's noted for helming such six-string stalwarts as Carlos Santana, Steve Miller, and Stevie Ray Vaughan. “If there's a good-sounding guitar, odds are Jim Gaines was around,” quips Gomes. Former SRV keyboardist Reese Wynans also plays on the disc—and he sounds right at home, being that Gomes sometimes echoes the legendary Texan's explosive playing style. “There's so many wonderful players out there,” he relates, “but man, I get chills thinking about Stevie Ray Vaughan.”

Unlike Vaughan, Gomes isn't strictly a Strat man. The cover of his latest CD sees him posing with a Gigliotti, a gorgeous guitar with a brushed-brass top and a mahogany body. “They're fabulous,” he raves of the Tacoma, Washington–made instruments. “The brushed brass makes the sound a little bit more treble-y, but it's balanced by the mahogany wood, which is a lot more rich-sounding than standard ash or alder.”

As well as an array of electric and acoustic guitars, Gomes also plays sitar and banjo on the CD, and points to his multicultural Canadian upbringing as crucial to his musical openness. “I grew up listening to Greek bouzoukis and hearing banjos and watching Indian music and hearing strange and beautiful languages,” he says. “My music, however roots-based it may be, is still going to embrace all these sounds, because that's a part of me. You know, I don't want to be a Mississippi Delta bluesman ­, that's not my goal. And that's said with the utmost respect for Mississippi bluesmen. But I'm Canadian, darn it, and I'm proud of where I come from and who I am.”

Anthony Gomes plays the Yale Hotel today (March 1).

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