111 N. Sixth Ave., Walla Walla
If you go
Matt Schofield and his band will play Saturday in one show only at the Power House Theatre.
Doors open at 7 p.m., and show time is 8 p.m.
Tickets for reserved seating range from $20 to $35 online at www.phtww.com, via phone 509-529-6500 or at the ticket window at the theater.
WALLA WALLA — Don’t expect the same show this Saturday out of British blues guitarist Matt Schofield as you saw last year. Unless, of course, what you’re anticipating is a packed venue and a high-energy mix of blues, rock and funk.
Otherwise, the beauty of a great blues show is that it almost never sounds the same way twice. From the studio to the road, songs seem to take on a life of their own, Schofield said in a telephone interview from Canada last week.
“You make a record, and it’s just a moment in time,” he explained. “You tour those songs for a year, and they develop. It would almost be nice if you could record them a year after. They take on personalities.”
The battle of an improvisational musician is always reaching for the definitive version. For fans, that means a one-of-a-kind experience.
“I don’t think some people are aware of how great the feeling of live music can be,” he said.
Even better in a place where it’s appreciated, which explains Schofield’s quick return to the community.
Having traveled all over the world in communities whose names he sometimes can’t even remember, Schofield said the Walla Walla audience stood out on his American tour last year.
“We were looked after nicely and welcomed nicely. The crowd was warm,” he recalled. “So that’s what stays with you about whether it was a good gig or not.”
So what’s changed for Schofield since he was last here? Apart from having a birthday, the 35-year-old guitarist — dubbed as a “British blues sensation” — was named “Best Blues Guitarist” at the British Blues Awards for the third year in a row.
“It’s nice,” he said modestly, “because it’s voted for by music fans.”
He’s also coming off what he calls a “bit of a dartboard tour.”
“It looks like someone has taken a map of the world and thrown a dart and that’s where you’re playing, like some kind of mentalists,” he said.
Compared to last year when his crew drove around North America for a couple of months, there’s been fewer shows and more traveling. In July they performed in Montreal.
That was followed by two shows in the United Kingdom before a return to Canada and then down to New York. After two more shows in the U.K., they were off to Estonia and Italy. Their recent tour started in New Brunswick last weekend.
In Walla Walla, where more than 200 advance tickets have been sold for the 8 p.m. show at the Power House Theatre, female duo Abby Chapman and Molly Weppler, known as The Lentil Brothers, will open with their modern folk harmonies.
Another special guest will also be in town for the show — Schofield’s dad, whose record collection inspired his son to take up the guitar as a boy in Manchester, England.
A California resident the past 25 years, the elder Schofield took his son to see concerts in San Francisco that would have been unheard of in the U.K. “BB (King) used to do this blues music festival tour every summer and he’d invite two or three other artists out and do a whole U.S. tour,” Schofield marveled.
Through his dad, he was exposed to his longtime favorites, BB King, Jimi Hendrix, Eric Clapton and Stevie Ray Vaughn.
By the time he was 12, he had an ear for it and was playing shows in the village where he grew up with friends. At 18 he moved to London to pursue performing.
“It wasn’t about being a star,” he said. “I’m a music lover, first and foremost.”
Ending up on the stage with some of his idols has been the best kind of affirmation. Last year he played in the same festival as BB King and shared a stage with Buddy Guy.
His music now, including his fourth and latest studio album “Anything But Time,” infuses his own driving guitar sound with blues and jazz.
Lest anyone mistake that a 35-year-old might be too young to know anything about the blues, Schofield merely reminds that Clapton was only 21 when he made music with Cream, and Hendrix died at 27. After playing for 22 years, his hands don’t feel quite as strong as they once were.
“I don’t feel that young anymore,” he quipped. “My fingers get more sore now than they did before. It takes longer for my callouses.”
Schofield follows up his sold-out 2011 Walla Walla show in the middle of a blues concert series at the Power House Theatre. It started in August with Oli Brown and caps Nov. 17 with a show from Robert Cray.
Joining him onstage will be Jonny Henderson on Hammond organ and left-hand bass, and American drummer Kevin Hayes, who has toured and recorded with Robert Cray, John Lee Hooker, BB King, Albert Collins and Van Morrison.