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Sonny Landreth: Recorded Live in Lafayette

C. Michael Bailey By

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Slide guitarist Sonny Landreth releases his third live recording after 2005's Grant Street (Sugar Hill Records) and 2007's Sonny Landreth -Live at 2007 New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival (Munckmusic). Far from just another live release from a jam band, Recorded Live in Lafayette reveals some clever programming by Landreth. Disc one of this two-disc set is an acoustic collection featuring Landreth on his signature resophonic steel-body guitar. This is a departure from his previous live shows, which were typically all electric affairs. Landreth reimagines "Blues Attack," "Hell at Home," and "The USS Zydecoldsmobile" in fresh and inventive ways that powerfully expose the guitarist diamond-dense genius. Landreth is an innovator on the slide guitar and a cultural alchemist mixing and making his brand of Zydeco-infused blues.

But just when you thought he could not do more with the scarred warhorse "Key to the Highway" than he did on his recent Bound by the Blues (Provogue Records, 2015) with its 18-wheel, overdriven momentum and country drama, Landreth surprises us with an intense acoustic treatment that contains more potential energy that an atom bomb whose controlled detonation results in a seething and humid blues expression. With his acoustic band rounded out with a second guitar, cajon, accordion and ukulele bass, Landreth embraces the same instrumental eccumenicism as Cassandra Wilson on her mid '90s masterpieces Blue Light 'til Dawn (Blue Note, 1993) and New Moon Daughter (Blue Note, 1995). It is a heady mix.

Then he goes electric. "Back to Bayou Teche" sets the environment for the electric set with a demonstration of Landreth' s innovative slide guitar method where he frets notes with the free fingers on his left hand and plays chords and chord fragments by fretting behind the slide (placed on his little finger) while he plays. Landreth's innovation does not end there. He also like unusual tunings, as on "True Blue" where he plays in an Open Cm—Open Am: E—A--E—A--C—E with a capo on the 3rd fret. A 12-bar blues, Landreth transforms the style into something super-sinister. "True Blue" also begins a four song string that anchors the electric set. Next, Landreth plays "The Milky Way Home" originally appearing on From the Reach (Landfall, 2016). It was on this recording that Landreth began to veer away from the blues and explore more virtuosic music that he would perfect on Elemental Journey (Landfall, 2012), which provided the next piece, the atmospheric "Brave New Girl" segueing into another From the Reach offering "Uberesso," where Landreth pulls out all of the stops, playing with velocity and power.

Landreth breaks every rule on hi treatment of "Walkin' Blues" pulling the ancient piece recorded by Son House May 28, 1930 out of the dust and transformed it into a 21st century tome about working from can't see to can't see. The band closes the show with the potent Zydeco of "The One and Only Truth," featuring a grand accordion solo by Steve Conn. Recorded Live in Lafayette finds Landreth in command of his impressive comfort zone.

Critic's Note: Anno Domini 2017, marks both the 100th Anniversary of recorded jazz, deftly noted by the release of the shellac "Dixieland Jass Band One-Step (A)/Livery Stable Blues (B)," Victor 18255, recorded February 26, 1917 and released March 7, 1917. My father was 18 months old and my mother was yet to be born for two years. It is also the twentieth anniversary of me writing for All About Jazz. The first recording I reviewed for the magazine was Art Pepper's San Francisco Samba (Contemporary, 1997), published December 1, 1997. I am using this present article as part of a series noting my twentieth anniversary with the magazine and paying special tribute to my fellow writers at All About Jazz and Publisher Michael Ricci.

Track Listing: CD1: Blues Attack; Hell at Home; Key to the Highway; Creole Angel; A World Away; The High Side; Bound by the Blues; The USS Zydecoldsmobile. CD2: Back to Bayou Teche; The Milky Way Home; Brave New Girl; Uberesso; Soul Salvation; Walkin’ Blues; One and Only Truth.

Personnel: Sonny Landreth: vocals, guitars; Dave Ranson: ukulele bass; Brian Brignac: cajon; Steve Conn: accordion; Sam Broussard: acoustic guitar.

Title: Recorded Live in Lafayette | Year Released: 2017 | Record Label: Provogue Records


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