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Sonny Landreth

Southwest Louisiana-based guitarist, songwriter, and singer Sonny Landreth is a musician's musician. The blues slide guitar playing found on his two Zoo Entertainment releases, Outward Bound (1992) and South of I-10 (1995) is distinctive and unlike anything else you've ever heard. His unorthodox guitar style comes from the manner in which he simultaneously plays slide and makes fingering movements on the fretboard. Landreth, who has an easygoing personality, can play it all, like any good session musician. His distinctive guitar playing can be heard on recordings by John Hiatt, Leslie West and Mountain, and other rock & rollers.

Landreth was born February 1, 1951, in Canton, Mississippi, and his family lived in Jackson, Mississippi, for a few years before settling in Lafayette, Louisiana. Landreth began playing guitar after a long tenure with the trumpet. His earliest inspiration came from Scotty Moore, the guitarist from Elvis Presley's band, but as time went on, he learned from the recordings of musicians and groups like Chet Atkins and the Ventures. As a teen, Landreth began playing with his friends in their parents' houses.

"They would ping-pong us from one house to another, and though we were all awful at first, as time went on we got pretty good. It's an evolutionary process, just like songwriting is," Landreth explained in an interview on his 44th birthday in 1995. After his first professional gig with accordionist Clifton Chenier in the '70s (where he was the only white guy in the Red Beans & Rice Revue for awhile), Landreth struck out on his own, but not before he recorded two albums for the Blues Unlimited label out of Crowley, Louisiana, Blues Attack in 1981 and Way Down in Louisiana in 1985. If anyone is living proof of the need to press on in spite of obstacles, it is Landreth. The second of those two albums got him noticed by some record executives in Nashville, which in turn led to his recording and touring work with John Hiatt. That led to still more work with John Mayall, who recorded Landreth's radio-ready "Congo Square." More recently, he's worked with New Orleans bandleader and pianist Allen Toussaint (who guests on several tracks on South of I-10, as does Dire Straits guitarist Mark Knopfler).

On Landreth's brilliant albums for Zoo, the lyrics draw the listener in to the sights, sounds, smells, and heat of southwest Louisiana, and a strong sense of place is evident in many of Landreth's songs. Although his style is completely his own and his singing is more than adequate, Landreth admits that writers like William Faulkner have had a big influence on his lyric writing. The fact that it's taken so long for academics at American universities to recognize the great body of poetry to be found in the blues concerns Landreth as well. Robert Johnson is Landreth's big hero when it comes to guitar playing. "When I finally discovered Robert Johnson, it all came together for me," Landreth said, noting that he also closely studied the recordings of Skip James, Mississippi John Hurt, and Charley Patton. Landreth finally released an all- instrumental album, Elemental Journey, in 2012, his 11th solo project that wed blues to classical and jazz stylings with a full orchestra. In 2013, the guitarist made his fourth appearance at Eric Clapton's Crossroads Guitar Festival.

Landreth and a trio toured hard over the next year in preparation for a new recording, and signed to Provogue. He decided on a simple, back-to-blues roots offering. He entered the studio with drummer Brian Brignac and bassist David Ranson in late 2014, and emerged with Bound by the Blues, a set of some of the earliest blues standards he ever learned to play as well as original material. The album was released in June of the following year. ~ Richard Skelly
full bio

Selected Discography

x

Track List: Bound By The Blues

1. Walkin' Blues

2. Bound By The Blues

3. The High Side

4. It Hurts Me Too

5. Where They Will

6. Cherry Ball Blues

7. Firebird Blues

8. Dust My Broom

9. Key To The Highway

10. Simcoe Street

x

Track List: Elemental Journey

1. Gaia Tribe

2. For You And Forever

3. Heavy Heart Rising

4. Wonderide

5. Passionola

6. Letting Go

7. Elemental Journey

8. Brave New Girl

9. Forgotten Story

10. Reckless Beauty

11. Opening Sky

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Track List: From The Reach

1. Blue Tarp Blues

2. When I Still Had You

3. Way Past Long

4. The Milky Way Home

5. Storm Of Worry

6. Howlin' Moon

7. The Goin' On

8. Let It Fly

9. Blue Angel

10. Uberesso

11. Universe

x

Track List: The Road We're On

1. True Blue

2. Hell At Home

3. All About You

4. A World Away

5. Gone Pecan

6. Natural World

7. The Promise Land

8. Fallin' For You

9. Ol' Lady Luck

10. Gemini Blues

11. The Road We're On

12. Juke Box Mama

x

Track List: Levee Town

2. This River

3. The U.S.S. Zydecoldsmobile

5. Broken Hearted Road

6. Spider-Gris

7. GodChild

8. Turning With The Century

9. Z. Rider

11. Angeline

12. Deep South

x

Track List: Outward Bound

1. Soldier Of Fortune

2. Back To Bayou Teche

3. When You're Away

4. Sacred Ground

5. New Landlord

6. Speak Of The Devil

7. Yokamoma

8. Planet Cannonball

9. Common Law-Love

10. Bad Weather

11. Outward Bound

Comments

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annemayard
Came to bday party at my house .Gave me a cassette of his music back in 95. Still see him once in a while. Tonight playing at festival internationa l in Lafayette la.,fantasti c
Musician!!
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Discovered him on the E.C. guitar festival. Instant fan.
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If you ever get a chance to meet Sonny like I have at the Rock n Bowl in New Orleans, you'll enjoy it for he is a true good soul.
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carolbeelynx
whole package is pretty smooth
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jroyle411 you really need to give Derek Trucks a listen to then. You too Deke
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Oh Sweet Sounds Sonny.
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Wonderful
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Nice
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There are many great slide players but Sonny is in a league of his own. Mos def my fave & the best IMHO.
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You r correct Sir.
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In my opinion the greatest slide guitar player of all time.
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So So
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aye,aye,aye
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Please, come back to Chicago!
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Amazing
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Damn! Can this man play or what?!
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Sonny and Derek trucks at 2013 crossroads doing Congo square is something that is a must hear . fantastic just awesome.
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,
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Pandora recently added the studio version of Congo Square to my mix. I like it but it's more of a zydeco sound than the live version which really captures the spooky voodoo-New Orleans thing much better.
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Unbelievably humble for such a MASTER MUSICIAN AND SINGER! I don't know how he's flown under the radar all this time!
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Go see Sonny live if you get the chance. His playing is staggering.
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hodgdons7
Just caught Congo Square live version. I'd heard of Sonny too but never got to appreciate! Thanks again Pandora for turning me on to another great.
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One of the best players you'll ever experience.
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love love love more moremore
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What a BEAUTIFUL player and singer He is HEARTFELTY deep smooth
and a real GEM! I just couln't believe his style when I just heard it I bought his CD... WOW! What a surprise for me and what a great GIFT
of a voice and player this BOY trully IS! Thank-you SONNY BOY! U r IT!
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pandora11366 4
Wow. I'd heard Sonny Landreth's name before, took him for a studio guitarist I'd probably heard a million times without knowing it, but Pandora just gave him a brand new fan. This dude smokes!!
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Congo Square. Turn the volume up to eleven and play it on a high watt amp and big-a** speakers, not some cheezy compressed Ipod system in a docking station. That is what music is supposed to sound like.
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It's simple brothers. No one can duplicate the slide mastery that he achieves.
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@Jimi C - I concur! My point exactly!
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I swear I heard Bonnie Raitt singing harmony with Sonny. cool.
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ALL TOP GUITARIST LISTS ARE CRAP. EXCELLENCE IN MUSIC IS MEASURED BY TOO MANY ATTRIBUTES TO HAVE ANY ONE PERSON BE #1 OR #5. Such lists are garbage and foster an ignorant attitude in rock/pop musicians.
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Rolling Stone's 100 Top Guitar Player List = BS if Sonny's not on it.
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...and he's a great singer/songw r i t e r to boot!
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slide on dude slide on.sony cooks.
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David Lindley is incredible. His work with Jackson Browne was amazing.
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jimsellers
Let's not forget David Lindley, another unique slide player. El Rayo X.
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Rolling Stone published their top 100 guitar players. Sonny was nowhere to be found. What are you kidding.
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Never met him but he does come across as a pretty nice guy even though his playing is bad to the bone!
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I've seen Sonny several times and not only is he talented, he's one of the nicest, most unassuming guys you'll ever want to meet! Rock on, Sonny!
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There are a lot of great slide players - Sonny takes the crown!
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Rock me all day long!
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I agree - his trio is phenomenal live. Such a great player. Dig me some Sonny!
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Pure ,silky,edgy, u n i q u e lead like nobody before OR now. Must hear live.
David Ransom (Bass) who has been his sidekick forever is tremendous in his own right......a n d besides all that---- they are grounded, humble,& still play w/ same intensity as thy did when they were at Lafayette High. Anyone that is serious about music, must dial in ....
.
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Damn! Now I got to go see Jimmy Buffet.
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This guy is indeed one cool, blues playing cat! Something else that should be noted is that he has been playing with Jimmy Buffett and the Coral Reefer Band for the past several summers when the Parot Heads gather for the annual tour. The man has many talents indeed!!
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well slide is cool but that is not my concern,what i will say is what i saw this guy do,i think it was eric clapton blues fest,this guy was speed picking in between his slide licks,and that is something i never seen anyone do,*****tota l l y unique***
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Ok, ok, - one of the best. To me he is like the Jaco Pastorious of slide playing. It's his originality and unique approach (as stated earlier) that appeals to me. Of course this can also be said of Jeff Beck as well. There are many slide greats coming from a Blues base but not many that took the roots and modernized them while still incorporatin g them the way Sonny has - still my favorite though.
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avocadolemon
Calm down guys. Musician's musician may be a bit hackneyed but it means that he is unique and that other musicians (even Derek Trucks) can learn from him. Other musician's look to this guy and a handfull of others as the best. There are a lot of slide guitarists out there playing predictable stuff and selling tons of records, but musicians don't respect them nearly as much because they know it's canned stuff that anyone can emulate with practice. Not so with Mr. Trucks and Mr. Landreth.
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The best? You've got to consider Derek Trucks and Roy Rogers and Jeff Beck does some pretty nice slide work but you can probably leave him off the list becasue of everythng else he does...I could see saying, one of the best. Even in the top three maybe. But the very, very best...for me it's a three way tie. Even Warren Haynes introduced him as "one of the best slide players."
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The best slide player to come along since Duane Allman. Unique and very original approach. You can here the bayou in his playing.
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