Monday night. Rockin’ out. Normally two separate concepts, they’ll be combined Nov. 7 if Anthony Gomes has his way. And as the blues guitarist and his band will be on stage at Elmira’s Central Tavern, the odds are pretty good.
“We’re a high-energy, electrifying show,” he says of the upcoming performance, a chance to get back into Canada on his latest tour.
Born in Toronto to a Portuguese father and a French-Canadian mother, he was drawn to the blues at an early age, smitten by the legendary B.B. King. Having received a “beat up old acoustic guitar” for his 14th birthday, Gomes has kept six strings at hand ever since.
Inspired to write original music, Gomes’ high school band won a local radio station contest, earning $10,000 in prize money and a chance to open for Bon Jovi. Gomes decided it wasn’t his path to follow, however.
“I quit the band before all of that could happen. My heart wasn’t in it because I wanted to play the blues and roots music.
I packed up my bags and moved to Chicago to learn blues from the masters.”
That was in the late 1990s, when he decided to make a go of it as a full-time musician.
“If you want to play the blues, you gotta head south and hit the road,” he said this week in a telephone interview, appropriately in transit between St. Louis and Pennsylvania.
“B.B. King was definitely the first and main influence,” he said of his early foray into the blues. “I spent my first three or four years trying to sound just like B.B.
Listening to the likes of Buddy Guy, Albert Collins, Stevie Ray Vaughan, Albert King, Eric Clapton and Jimi Hendrix, he developed an appreciation for the variety of guitar styles, eventually carving out his own sound as a player.
Following a stint in Chicago, Gomes now calls Nashville home, a place where he can immerse himself in the music scene and hone his songwriting skills.
His influences and experiences are reflected in his recordings. Gomes made his recording debut in 1998 on the Urban Electric label with “Blues in Technicolor.” The disc introduced him as a guitar-slinger loaded with firepower. Instead of following up with more of the same, Gomes boldly stepped back for an intimate acoustic offering in 2000 with the critically acclaimed “Sweet Stringin’ Soul.”
In 2002 he released “Unity” and proceeded to win the 2003 BluesWax Artist of the Year award, exposing his music to a wider audience as his live shows got larger and more frequent. “Music Is the Medicine,” released in 2006, peaked at number four on the Billboard Top Blues Albums chart. His 2008 “LIVE” is Gomes’ greatest commercial success to date, reaching number one on the Billboard Top Blues Albums chart.
His latest album is “Blues Medicine,” a 17-song collection that highlights his evolution as a blues player, a career choice he continues to enjoy on a daily basis.
“I love what I do. I know what I was put here to do. This is my dream job.”
Given the deep roots and long lineage of the blues, there’s always more to learn and always something to keep him fascinated with the genre.
“It makes you feel like you’re part of something bigger – I like that about the blues,” said Gomes.
A proponent of the rockin’ blues, he sees plenty of converts who are surprised by the energy of the live shows, perhaps because they have a mistaken perception that the blues are all about being down, slow and depressed. It’s a chance to provide something of an education.
“I’ll say to them, ‘you know that Led Zeppelin you’re listening to? That’s Willie Dixon.’”
The blues are, of course, the root of rock ‘n’ roll, clearly in evidence in the music of a long list of performers, from Elvis Presley to The Beatles and the Rolling Stones right through to today, who’ve drawn on the genre.
Gomes’ high-energy take on the blues will be on display Nov. 7. The show opens with local musician Larry Lesperance playing his original acoustic tunes starting about 7:15 p.m. The Anthony Gomes band hits the stage at 8 p.m. Tickets are $15 in advance and $20 at the door, available at the Central Tavern (30 Arthur St. S.;519-669-9028), by emailing email@example.com or by calling 519-729-4909.