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  • Writer's pictureJim Bessman

Sonny Landreth brings the bayou to City Winery

Sonny Landreth performs "Blues Attack" from his new album "Recorded Live in Lafayette"

Blues slide guitar master Sonny Landreth, back at City Winery July 26, is supporting his new career-spanning double-album Recorded Live in Lafayette appropriately with a two-part set.

The first, as evidenced at the Winery, is all acoustic, as Recorded Live in Lafayette is one disc all-acoustic, the second his usual electric trio format—in fact, Recorded Live in Lafayette includes his first acoustic album ever, with the entire package representing his first live album set in 12 years. So Landreth played a resonator guitar from a stool at the front of the stage, to his left his trio's drummer Brian Brignac on a cajón box drum that he slapped with one hand, brushed with the other, and beat with a kick-drum foot pedal. On the far left was the trio's bass player Dave Ranson, here playing a ukulele bass.

The net effect was riveting on songs like his originals "Creole Angel" and "Hell at Home," blues staple "Key to the Highway" and his last album's titletrack "Bound By the Blues" (2015), a tribute to heroes like Muddy Waters, and Buffy St. Marie, whom Landreth rightly noted, is grossly underappreciated.

The acoustic format brought a brighter sheen to Landreth's dazzle, while not at all diminishing its rhythmic drive such that when he and the rest switched to electric for the second set and songs from Recorded Live in Lafayette like Robert Johnson's "Walkin' Blues," it was really pretty seamless.

Not necessarily the high point but most telling was the latter set's tribute to the late Johnny Winter, "Firebird Blues" from Bound By the Blues—Winters having been known for playing a 1963 Gibson Firebird V guitar. Like Winters, Landreth ranks among the great guitarists of his generation, and also like Winters—and other guitar heroes like Jimi Hendrix, Stevie Ray Vaughan and Billy F Gibbons—he fronts a rock trio.

But Landreth is probably most comparable to Eric Clapton, who also served in a classic rock trio (Cream) and for whom Landreth regularly played at his Crossorads Guitar Festivals. Though not a slide player, Clapton is like Landreth in playing beautiful, meaningful parts, never needlessly shredding--not to mention over-singing. Landreth, especially, is about the least showy guitar superstar, maybe, in history, which is no doubt why he's also probably the most underrated, yet surely among the most musical.

Sonny Landreth and Eric Clapton perform "Promise Land"

He ended with "Back to Bayou Teche," which leads off the second Recorded Live in Lafayette disc, and shows another reason why Landreth is so special: From his 1992 Outward Bound album, the Mississippi native and longtime resident of Breaux Bridge, Louisiana, in the heart of Cajun country, cut his teeth in Zydeco king Clifton Chenier's band, and never strays stylistically far from the historic Bayou Teche, along which Breaux Bridge is situated.



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