By MIKE CHAIKEN
The story goes that blue guitarist Robert Johnson acquired his considerable reputation at the “crossroads” in Mississippi.
At this junction, the legend says Johnson met up with the devil and signed away his soul in exchange for fortune and fame.
It’s a familiar tale for most musicians not just for Robert Johnson, said blues guitarist Anthony Gomes. In order to find success, said Gomes, musicians find themselves selling their soul to the clubs, record company, and so on and so on.
Johnson’s story is a “metaphor for compromising yourself to make it,” said Gomes, who comes to Bridge Street Live in Collinsville on April 11.
Johnson sits front and center in Gomes’ song “Stealin’ from the Devil” from his hit blues album, “Peace, Love, and Loud Guitars.”
“He didn’t really deserve it (the deal with Satan),” said Gomes of Johnson. “He was just trying to make it.”
Gomes said “Stealin’ from the Devil” is his way of redeeming the legendary blues artist.
The lyrics go, “I’m on a mission; I’ve got a soul to save; a score to settle; from beyond the grave.”
“This is my sequel where I go down and rescue him,” said Gomes.
Another historical blues musician figures in Gomes’ track “Come Down.”
The lyrics for the track are: “Come down from heaven, B.B. King/Cause this kingdom has no king.”
Gomes said he always considered blue guitar great B.B. King his mentor.
“When he passed away there was a void,” said Gomes. Not only did the world lose the “greatest blues musician there was,” said Gomez, he lost someone that he would be forever indebted to.
Gomes said, “When I was in a club, playing a gig, B.B.’s bus driver saw me and introduced me to him.” That led to a 20-year friendship between the Canadian-born Gomes and the owner of a guitar dubbed “Lucille.”
Gomes’ nods to King and Johnson are indicative of his knowledge of the history of the blues.
Gomes said it is important for a musician to know the historical and musical precedents for what he/she does.
“The more you study and learn, the better you can be as artist,” he said.
Blue wasn’t Gomes’ initial love when he picked up the guitar, he said. He loved the sound of the rock guitar as practiced by artists like Jimi Hendrix, Stevie Ray Vaughn, the Rolling Stones, and Deep Purple.
But the first true blues artist Gomes listened to was B.B. King. And, Gomes said, once he heard King, his life changed.
Gomes said he discovered King during a trip to the record store. He wandered up to the third floor, where few customers went, and where the store kept its jazz and blues section. “You had to want to go there,” said of that particular retail desert island.
Gomes picked up a copy of King’s 1965 album, “Live at the Regal.” When he heard B.B. play the blues, all those other artists such as Jimi Hendrix, “made sense (musically).”
From that point, Gomes began delving deeply into the history of the blues.
Blues Rock Review recently named “Peace, Love & Loud Guitars” as the “Best Blues Album of 2018. The track “Come Down” hit number one on both the iTunes Blues Chart and Amazon’s New Release Blues Chart. It also earned over 470,000 views on Facebook.
To have been playing for 20 years and released 13 albums, Gomes said it was exciting to have his new album proclaimed the best he has ever done.
“Many of my peers are hanging it up,” said Gomes.
The gig at Bridge Street Live will give Gomes the opportunity to play in an intimate setting where the audience is within arm’s reach of the stage.
Gomes said he likes small venues like Bridge Street because it gives him a chance to connect to the audience. “You can look people in the eyes. You can see them smiling and when they’re not.”
A performance in a small club becomes more like a conversation and not just a speech, Gomes said.
For fans coming out to the show, Gomes said, “Live is where we come alive.” Gomes said fans can expec an uplifting show with a lot of emotion and energy.
Anthony Gomes plays Bridge Street Live, 41 Bridge St., Collinsville on Thursday, April 11 at 8 p.m. For more information, go to 41BridgeStreet.com or AnthonyGomes.com.