It would have been easy enough for Matt Schofield, the most heralded blues guitarist to come out of England in recent memory, to leave at slow burns and nifty shuffles. But Far As I Can See displays broader ambitions — and from the first.
We’ve barely settled in before Schofield’s opening track reveals itself to be inspired by Carl Sagan’s Pale Blue Dot: A Vision of the Human Future in Space. Not exactly grits and groceries fare, that. We’re not three songs into this forthcoming release, due on February 18, 2014 via Provologue, when Schofield can be found creating fizzy new tension points inside a 7/8 time signature, one far more typical for prog than any shotgun shack-rattling roots record. That the song is called “Getaway” couldn’t be more fitting, as Schofield cuts an unbeaten passage into yet another heretofore unexplored spot.
Not that there aren’t plenty of the expected elements. No, Schofield has the goods. He can play it new or old school — as 12-bar gems like “The Day You Left,” not to mention in-the-pocket asides like “Clean Break” and “Oakville Shuffle,” so deftly demonstrate. Still, Far As I Can See really snaps and sizzles when Schofield feints one way but then instead strikes out on these thrillingly divergent paths. There’s an unadorned thrill in hearing this age-old music reformulated in such fresh new ways.
He dabbles in a brawny funk on “Hindsight,” with a Maceo Parker-inspired turn on the alto from James Morton, swerves into grease-popping soul jazz on the organ-flecked “Everything,” and dabbles in Jimi Hendrix’s brand of scalding fusion. Sure, he covers Albert King’s “Breaking Up Somebody’s Home,” but Schofield also dives headlong into the Neville Brothers’ swampy soul with his take on “Yellow Moon.” In the end, this stirringly complex album is as recommended because of its subject matter and textures as it is for Matt Schofield’s justly celebrated performances on guitar.