" Ear To The Ground "
Very Highly Anticipated, But..., (11/13/07)
When Matt Schofield's new CD arrived at my door I opened it with great anticipation, but after several passes on my CD player I am still having a hard time getting a good feel from Ear To The Ground. Perhaps I had too high of expectation's as I had felt Schofield had the potential to step up to be one of our new bright young stars, but it looks like we'll have to wait for his next release as this recording offers little advancement from his previous CD, Siftin' Thru Ashes.
My beef with the album is two fold. The first being that Schofield's guitar playing hasn't grown, which, given his young age, I expected to see a creative growth spurt. Secondly, the trio concept (B3 organ, drums, and guitar) might very well be the root of concern as to why the creativity has stunted, as Schofield faces little challenges from his two bandmates. Now might be the time to break free from the confines of what is typically a Jazz trio format and let Schofield take on a real bass player, plus another guitarist or keyboard player to help define his sound, which should also allow his songwriting to develop as well.
Nine originals are offered here, plus two covers, the opener, "Pack It Up," previously covered by Freddie King, tries to sound like a Funk tune, has no American Soul feel, and immediately sets the tone on a downer. The next track, "Troublemaker," is a high-tempo shuffle and shows off nearly the best this trio can deliver as Schofield's guitar really soars, yet it's all too short, plus the lyrics leave a lot to be desired as we all heard this story before. The very hard-rocking title track is kind of a mix of Schofiled's trio trying to sound like Joe Bonamassa jamming with a heavy version of the Meters. A sound that I am sure they were trying to emulate considering Bonamassa's current popularity, but it does not mesh as the herky-jerky changes sound too contrived and Schofield's guitar solos never lift off.
The slow, plodding, nearly seven minutes of "Heart Don't Need a Compass" never finds its way. Finally, Schofield takes his first stab at the Blues on his "Once In a While," but it's so sleepy and now I am looking for the remote to fast forward. The instrumental (once again Meters sounding) "Room at the Back" is very hip and Schofield's guitar lines are at their creative best, but it's far too short clocking in at 2:23. "Someone" is another heavy rocker with an unidentified harp player. The haunting "Searchin' (Give Me A Sign)" is by far the best track and has a nice vamp for Schofield's expressive guitar to play over. Schofield nicely broils the slow groove to a tasty crescendo.
The second instrumental, "Move Along," is directly linked to Jimmy McGriff's "Motoring Along." The biggest crime is thankfully left for last, as Schofield's trio takes a shot at one of my favorite tunes, that being the Bill Jennings cut "When It All Comes Down" (also covered by B.B. King), but these guys just don't have the necessary grease or soul to make this chestnut gel, plus the cheesy background vocals are totally unnecessary and distract the listener.
Put this one away and look forward to the next release by Schofield.
Bob Putignano: www.SoundsofBlue.com