He's been a staple for guitar lovers for so long, surely established fans know precisely what to expect from UK guitar phenomenon Matt Schofield by now. Or do we?
Yes, the fluid, ever-evolving blues-to-jazz lines are just as likely to reference Robben Ford and John Scofield as they are Jimi and Stevie Ray; the delicious glacial Strat tones, courtesy of a warhorse '61 specimen and his custom-built SVL guitars, a signature Two-Rock and a few choice effects, are still in full bloom.
The ensemble musicianship of his core band is every bit as telepathic and road-worn as before, too. And yet... there's a welcome difference in attitude, a more daring approach on this fifth studio album, that was hinted at with 2011's New Orleans- flavoured Anything But Time.
The album kicks off with the Robert Cray-esque From Far Away - opening songs on a Schofield album are always a lead-guitar showcase. Wielding some of the roundest and glassiest tones ever summoned
from a Strat, details such as harmony guitar in the chorus over backing vocals and rhythm guitar establish an ambitious soundscape.
At solo time, a few Santana-isms, some judicious tremolo picking, out- and-out blues and intervallic fusion licks show that even if this one song showcased everything he does, it'd be enough.
However, there's plenty more to prick up the ears across the rest of the record - and it's by no means all coaxed from the fretboard, either. There's the spacious, loping 7/8 swagger of Getaway, its time signature more of a help than a hindrance; the assured Stax feel of the keyboard, vocal and horn arrangements of Breaking Up Somebody's Home and Hindsight.
Then there's the reverb-drenched, glissandoing leadlines of slow blues The Day You Left, demonstrating his mastery of that dynamic, fast- decaying Strat lead style immortalised by SRV on Riviera Paradise. By the time he spreads his wings on the brooding, nine- minute Eb opus Red Dragon, at times a dead ringer for Voodoo Chile, you'll be convinced he can summon the spirit of any of his influences through the fretboard.
Far As I Can See is a varied record, with a vibrant identity and a fiery confidence; and it deserves to earn Schofield and his band many more fans. [BW] Standout track: Red Dragon Fans of: SRV And Double Trouble, Robben Ford, Robert Cray
4 out of 5