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Photo by Terry Steeves.

Blues guitar sensation Philip Sayce returns to The Rainbow

By Terry Steeves on October 24, 2016

Canadian blues guitar sensation Philip Sayce returns to Ottawa’s home of the blues, The Rainbow, for a highly anticipated set of performances on Fri. Nov. 4 and Sat. Nov. 5.

It’s one of the only two-night stops on a series of upcoming November tour dates throughout Ontario and Quebec, which are in support of his newly launched Scorched Earth: Vol. 1, his first full-fledged live album. It highlights portions of Sayce’s Apr. 14, 2016 performance at the Silver Dollar Room, located in his hometown of Toronto. The show featured long-time bassist, Joel Gottschalk, and Kiel Feher on drums. Sayce reflects on the album, the experience, and the intention of more live recordings to come:

“It was certainly an honour and a privilege to have the opportunity to record one of the nights on tour, and meaningful to have recorded it at the Silver Dollar in Toronto, the city I grew up in. Every time I play, I always try to give everything – and that show was no different. The intention is to move forward with upcoming volumes. I really like the concept a lot – a series of live releases, but shorter, 40-minute length ones. There’s plenty there for people to listen to, and that way, we can release more live material more regularly. It keeps things fresh and moving, and it’s a way to share some of these live performances that are so emotional.”

The recording gives the listener an opportunity to bring home a taste of the live experience, which captures the fiery passion and soul bearing energy Sayce leaves on the stage every time. It is the second effort under the Warner Music Canada label, which follows up his highly successful studio album, Influence, released in the spring of 2015. Those that were there for Sayce’s memorable March 2015 show at the Rainbow got smacked by the pure power of his performance. For Sayce, it was one of the highlights of a busy past year:

“I’ve been developing my relationship with the fine folks at Warner Music Canada, and have certainly focused the attention on Canada over the last year. But I do have to say that show I played at The Rainbow in Ottawa was a tour highlight for sure… I get goosebumps whenever I think about it. It would be cool to record something there next time.”

Philip Sayce’s playing style combines elements of soul, funk, and rock along a solid blues backbone, which delivers a versatile and constantly changing wall of sound that keeps the listener on one’s toes every step of the way. The live album consists of well-selected songs, taken from a vast repertoire of original material and creative takes on various blues and rock classics. The listener and performer take the ride together through the colours and transitions of the music. One can hear the melange of many influential guitar greats through his own unique style which embraces classic, progressive, and modern tones.

“Powerful Thing” has the ferocity of Voodoo Chile-era Jimi Hendrix, as does the “Little Wing”-esque “Alchemy”, a song he dedicates to his wife. “Beautiful” is a catchy funk/blues number that oozes with Stevie Ray Vaughan tones, and its walking progressions that drive the groove straight down to the feet. “Standing Around Cryin’” drips with those lonesome Beck chords before sauntering into “Aberystwyth”, which is ablaze in gutsy blues and howling bending notes. “A Mystic”, takes a tangent from its infectious chugging fury into an uncharted psychedelic dreamscape.

“A lot of my influences are still the same ones I listen to today. For me, it’s a lifelong journey. The first time I heard Albert Collins, it hit me like, “Yup, that’s inside me now.” Just like the first time I heard Stevie Ray Vaughan, Hendrix, Ry Cooder, Jeff Healey, Clapton… they all made an imprint in my soul. It’s all part of who I am – that’s how powerful these individuals have influenced me. But it’s not about emulating them, but to dig into the essence of the blues power, then take that fire and share it through my own experiences, along with my deep love and respect for the music and the artists.”

Aside from being an incredible guitarist, Sayce is also quite an extraordinary singer. His Lenny Kravitz-styled vocals add both a rhythmic punch and powerful soul quality that compliments his playing style. His range is also impressive, as he hits those deep gutteral notes in his beefed-up version of a Don Covay classic, “Blues Ain’t Nothin’ But A Good Woman On My Mind”.

“The singing came not long after I started playing guitar. In high school, we put a band together, and entered this Battle of the Bands contest, but the singer we had wasn’t working out. We didn’t know what to do, so I said I’d do it, and essentially learned on the spot how to sing. We were doing Black Crowes songs and others with really challenging vocals. I just jumped into the deep end and did the best I could, and I’ve continued to work at it ever since.”

When Philip Sayce gives a live performance, you see an artist who reflects the essence of what he’s soaked in through his musical influences and experiences, and projects it from his heart and soul. Sayce’s return to The Rainbow will include touring bandmates, Joel Gottschalk (bass), and Jimmy Paxson (drums).

“I try to do the best that I can in the moment to get deep and see what’s goin’ on inside. I tend not to think about it and just feel my way through it. That’s really my intention, to connect with people on that level. I’m just trying to put it out there with love. That’s the message, the energy, the gratefulness…and people can take some of that home with them.”

For more on Philip Sayce, including tour details, tickets, and to purchase his new live album, Scorched Earth: Vol. 1, visit his website, or find him on Facebook, Twitter, or YouTube.