147

Sonny Landreth: Levee Town

C. Michael Bailey By

Sign in to view read count
Sonny Landreth: Levee Town

For slide guitar enthusiasts, it doesn't get any better than this.

It is interesting that the finest slide guitarist playing would use a Louisiana Zydeco fare to display his considerable talent rather than its Mississippi cousin, the Blues, but that is exactly what Sonny Landreth does. In the same way that Jimi Hendrix goosed the evolution of playing the electric blues, has Landreth done for the slide guitar. Born in the Mississippi, the slide guitar has had an impressive list of exceptional practitioners from Robert Johnson and James Son House to Duane Allman, to Johnny Winter, to Lowell George, Ry Cooder, and Bonnie Raitt. But, with all respects, none have had the technical facility and wow that Sonny Landreth displays on this and his previous four recordings. There is something totally extraterrestrial about his superb playing that leaves my jaw slack.

The explanation of the 49 year old Landreth's Creole soul lies in the fact that he cut his teeth with the late Clifton Chenier, arguably the greatest Zydeco player ever, in the 1970s. He gained national prominence by replacing Ry Cooder in the slide guitar chair of John Hiatt's fine Bring The Family band that toured in support of that recording. He then struck out on his own, but in my opinion, has never garnered attention equal to his considerable and unique talent. But he always remained true to his Southwest Louisiana roots, extending the Zydeco vocabulary into the Pop and Rock realms.

Levee Town is Landreth's most fully realized project to date. It exists as the closing story in his trilogy of recordings that includes Down in Louisiana (Epic, 1993) and South of I-10 (Praxis/Zoo, 1995). On these discs, Landreth displays his truly innovate style of slide guitar where he simultaneously plays side and fingers the fretboard below the slide. This results in a cascade of notes that aurally appear to ripple. Through an ingenious use of slide harmonics and fingerings, Landreth easily sounds like multiple guitars. On the present recording, this effect is best experienced on the title cut, "This River", and "Spider-Gris". His attack in his solos is razor sharp and always perfectly placed. He has developed as a fine songwriter, often including clever Biblical imagery in the same way Robbie Robertson did for The Band (think "The Weight").

Landreth's production is a carefully layered one. A circumspectly constructed gumbo of guitar sounds characterizes Landreth's recording performances. Also distinctive of his style are his vocals. Criticized for having a "weak" voice, I believe many writers miss the point. Landreth's voice is neither stronger nor weaker than say, Eric Clapton's, in wake of their respective string talent. To his credit, Landreth does sharpen his vocals on Levee Town, and they come to a hard, sensual point on the lone blues, "Broken Hearted Road." Here, Landreth's voice becomes a molten mix with his guitar in the consummation of all edges of his talent meeting. If this disc has a center point, it is this song.

In the wake of the deluge of the popular yet malignantly mediocre offerings of FM radio, this is serious, essential music.


Track Listing: Levee Town; this River; the U.S.S. Zydecoldsmobile; Love and Glory; Broken Hearted Road; Spider-Gris; Godchild; Turning with the Century; Z. Rider; soul Salvation; Angeline; Deep South. (Total Time: 55:59)

Personnel: Sonny Landreth: Guitars, Vocals; David Ranson: Bass; Michael Rogan: Drums; Steve Conn: Keyboards.

Year Released: 2003 | Record Label: Sugar Hill Records | Style: Blues


Shop

More Articles

Read June CD/LP/Track Review June
by Karl Ackermann
Published: February 19, 2017
Read The Final Concert CD/LP/Track Review The Final Concert
by John Sharpe
Published: February 19, 2017
Read Desire & Freedom CD/LP/Track Review Desire & Freedom
by Glenn Astarita
Published: February 19, 2017
Read On Hollywood Boulevard CD/LP/Track Review On Hollywood Boulevard
by Budd Kopman
Published: February 19, 2017
Read The Motorman's Son CD/LP/Track Review The Motorman's Son
by Dan Bilawsky
Published: February 18, 2017
Read "Jazz Jukebox" CD/LP/Track Review Jazz Jukebox
by Dan Bilawsky
Published: October 31, 2016
Read "In Denmark 1959-1960" CD/LP/Track Review In Denmark 1959-1960
by Jakob Baekgaard
Published: June 18, 2016
Read "The Big Sound of Lil' Ed & The Blues Imperials" CD/LP/Track Review The Big Sound of Lil' Ed & The Blues Imperials
by Jim Trageser
Published: October 8, 2016
Read "Fierce Silence" CD/LP/Track Review Fierce Silence
by Mark Corroto
Published: August 4, 2016
Read "District Six" CD/LP/Track Review District Six
by Mark Sullivan
Published: April 3, 2016
Read "Joseph Kudirka:  Beauty and Industry" CD/LP/Track Review Joseph Kudirka: Beauty and Industry
by John Eyles
Published: March 9, 2016

Post a comment

comments powered by Disqus

Sponsor: ECM Records | BUY NOW  

Support our sponsor

Support All About Jazz's Future

We need your help and we have a deal. Contribute $20 and we'll hide the six Google ads that appear on every page for a full year!

Buy it!