I probably shouldn’t admit this at the top of a review, but catching Sonny Landreth live has been on my bucket list for a few years. He was recently playing at one of my favorite clubs, one that’s only a short ways from my house, and I waited too long, the venue sold out, and I was SOL.
Serves me right. I’m the guy who always says to support live music and I waited too long and missed out on a chance to see one of my favorites in an intimate club atmosphere. Better believe I won’t make that mistake again.
It just goes to show you that Landreth is extremely popular, and there is good reason for it – he’s a helluva player and he puts on a great show. For his latest Provogue album, released on the Mascot Label Group, Recorded Live In Lafayette, he shows two approaches to his music, dedicating the first disc to acoustic cuts and the second disc to electric ones.
This is a technique I’ve always enjoyed seeing artists employ. I remember catching a Grateful Dead performance and the audience going crazy over it. Recently British artist Dani Wilde did something similar, and Landreth pulled out all the stops for his own take on the idea.
Landreth kept his musicians lean by taking on the guitar and vocals himself and using David Ranson on bass and backing vocals and Brian Brignac on drums, percussion, and backing vocals. Special guest musicians include Steve Conn on keyboards, accordion, background vocals, and even the lead vocals on The One And Only Truth, and Sam Broussard on guitars and backing vocals.
Acoustic Set – Disc One
Some appreciative crowd noise kicks off the album before Landreth and Company slide into the opening song, Blues Attack. Plenty of bounce and Conn’s accordion make the song lively and fun. It’s early, but the first song is solid, so I’m looking forward to rest of the 2-disc set.
Next up is the slow intense number, Hell At Home. It takes a short while to bring in all the instruments, but that merely serves to add a little power to the lyrics. Landreth’s slide guitar is in rare form and it’s recorded crisply so you hear every lick like you’re right up on stage.
He follows up with Broonzy’s classic song, Key To The Highway. Just about every blues player worth his or her salt has done a version of it, and it has stood the test of time. Landreth does a great version of the song and his guitar is sweet while the growl in his lyric delivery adds a different take to the song. Yeah, he’s damn good.
He picks things up with the next track, Creole Angel. Landreth’s Louisiana upbringing shows on the selection of this song. It’s a lively, lovely number and Conn’s accordion adds just the right flavor. I love the style and actually have a pretty fair collection of zydeco and this one is going right onto my personal playlist.
The seven-and-a-half minute A World Away follows. It’s a beautifully languid number that I greatly enjoyed listening to, but due to its length, may never be able to work into a show. That’s my problem, when you get your copy of the album, just enjoy this one and don’t worry about trying to shoehorn it into an hour-long program.
Next up is The High Side, a sweet quiet number with some beautiful lyrics and good playing. It’s blues with some country on the side and you can’t go wrong with it. He follows up with Bound By The Blues, and delivers a great number of how we are connected through the blues. For many of us, the blues is not just the music we love, it’s the thread that holds us all together. How many friends have you made though meeting people at shows or festivals and end up making lifelong friends? Yeah, we’re all bound by the blues.
Landreth closes out the acoustic set with The U.S.S. Zydecoldsmobile. What a great title. The song is lively and a lot of fun. Don’t look for serious comments about national events, just crank it up loud and dance a hole in the floor!
Electric Set – Disc Two
The second set starts off with Back To Bayou Teche, and immediately the electricity is flowing, both on stage and in the audience. The Cajun music is flowing and Landreth is performing a few more guitar tricks, but it’s just getting started, I think he’s going to have more up his sleeve.
True Blue is next and it’s slower and more deliberate. He has fun with the guitar intro taking almost a full minute before bringing in the vocals. There is power in his voice as well as his guitar and this song is heavy on the emotion. Really like this one a lot.
Once again, he kicks things into gear on The Milky Way Home. He loses himself in the guitar and delivers an amazing run. The song is an instrumental that’s not just a jam to show off his band, he takes the guitar and turns it into a star performer. It’s a true tour de force and very impressive. Listen for the applause at the end of the song. Next up is Brave New Girl. It’s another instrumental that showcases Landreth at his best. It’s a pretty brave performer that drops almost ten minutes of instrumental work in the middle of a concert, but Landreth didn’t make it to the top by being shy about playing.
Without even pausing, they go right into Überesso. Did I say he dropped ten minutes of instrumental work? When you add this song, it’s more like 14-minutes and they are exciting and the three songs together are still shorter than some guitar wizards break in the middle of one song. I like instrumentals and these rock, so I’m not complaining in the least.
Next up is Soul Salvation, a good soulful number that’s a strong number. Yes, it has vocals, and Landreth is in good voice for this one. Some of the gravel is gone but his guitar playing is still solid and Conn’s accordion is a welcome addition.
Robert Johnson’s Walkin’ Blues gets an update. Somewhere the blues purists are running for cover, but each generation finds its own approach to the classics. Landreth’s guitar plays some sweet riffs and he does a credible job on the vocals. It’s one of the great classic blues songs and Landreth delivers a solid interpretation.
Steve Conn wrote and sings the closing song on the album, The One And Only Truth. It’s a pretty gutsy move for Landreth to have someone else close the set, usually a performer would put a guest song on earlier in the set, but since Conn has been playing so well on the album, it’s nice that he gets to close the show. That wild zydeco accordion is so much fun and this is a great way to end the album.
Sonny Landreth is one of the best slide players around and he’s a helluva performer. After listening to Recorded Live In Lafayette, I’m kicking myself even harder for missing the show. I guess I’ll just have to keep checking his website, http://www.sonnylandreth.com/ , to find out when I’ll get another chance. In the meantime, be sure to pick up this 2-disc gem of an album. I’m going to go hit the repeat button and start all over again…