When the name Sonny Landreth is uttered the first thing that comes to mind is “slide guitar master.” And that Landreth is, but he’s also a guy who’s collaborated with Eric Clapton and John Mayall, played in the late Clifton Chenier’s legendary Red Hot Louisiana Band and in the equally-revered Coral Reefer Band with Jimmy Buffett.
A good deal of time could be spent marveling at Landreth’s resume, but the best way to get to know him is to listen to his music. And there’s plenty to be found on his new album Recorded Live in Lafayette, which contains songs from throughout Landreth’s career. We spoke by email with Sonny and he told us a little about the making of the album and also gave us some tips on where to go to hear live music in his adopted hometown of Lafayette, Louisiana.
AXS: Your new album Recorded Live in Lafayette is a double record set holding a generous 16 tracks. Considering your extensive catalog and your repertoire beyond what you’ve recorded, was it difficult to whittle the set list down to 16 cuts? Were there a few songs you really wish you could’ve squeezed in?
Sonny Landreth: It definitely took some time and thought, but it was actually kind of a nice affirmation to have so many songs to consider for a project like this. Some songs like the instrumentals "Brave New Girl" and "Überesso” were easy to pick because I'm still playing them with my trio and wanted to capture them as such. Then others like "Back to Bayou Teche" and "Walking Blues" were on the list because I knew my old friends Steve Conn, on keys, and Sam Broussard, on guitars, would bring their mojo to the mix. I do wish we could've included a few of the ballads like "Planet Cannonball" and "Outward Bound," but I'm not sure they would've fit the overall vibe we created anyway. Maybe next time.
AXS: You’ve stated that you took a different approach to playing some of the songs on Recorded Live in Lafayette, especially for the acoustic portion of the show. Which songs most surprised you with the way they came out?
SL: I'd have to say that "Creole Angel" and "Bound by the Blues" actually speak better than the original electric versions. Also, though Steve and Sam never cease to surprise and amaze me, the solos they played on "A World Away" are two of the best I've ever heard in my life. Really special and I love that it happened on my album.
AXS: You are a guest player on the new album from Josh Hyde, The Call of the Night. Tell us a little about working with this rising talent.
SL: You are right to call him that. It's been a pleasure to watch him grow and evolve from a young guitarist into a mature musician and songwriter. He recorded his album at my favorite studio in the world, Dockside Studio in Maurice, Louisiana, and the session I did was all you'd want it to be: relaxed, fun and productive. There was plenty of cutting loose on the solos but more importantly, Josh gets the significance of sorting out the role that we have as guitar geeks to better serve the song and not the other way around. I also appreciate that he respects his roots and has embraced the many musical influences that are part of our culture here in Louisiana, and has found his own voice in the process.
AXS: You live in the Lafayette area which is well-known as a hub for musical talent. Do you get out to shows in your own backyard very often? For visitors to Lafayette, where are the best places to go to see the best of local talent?
SL: I confess that I don't get out as much as I did for, well, forever. I guess 46 years on the road has caught up with me somewhat but I do still get out occasionally when I'm home. And it's true, Lafayette has an incredibly rich history with music that is so unique and diverse and is a big part of the culture here. You'd want to catch Roddie Romero and the Hub City All Stars at, say, Festival International de Louisiane, or their jams at the Blue Moon Saloon. Warehouse 535 is a great venue; funky and beautiful, always rocking.
AXS: Tell us about what you’ll be doing this fall at the Crown Guitar Workshop & Festival in Bigfork, Montana.
SL: I'll be doing slide guitar workshops, private lessons and a performance on the weekend. I'll also be sitting in with some of the other instructors including my friends, Jerry Douglas and David Lindley, so I'm really looking forward to that. It'll be a great experience for everyone up in the Montana mountains. Man, it's absolutely beautiful up there.
AXS: Any given year finds you performing all over the world and this fall you have three shows in Paris with your longtime pal Jimmy Buffett. Since you’ll be in the City of Light for several days, do you have plans to explore something in the city that you’ve not experienced yet?
SL: What I've learned from spending time in Paris over the years is that you can always expect the unexpected. I'm not planning anything; I'm just gonna let the magic happen. It's truly one of the most amazing cities in the world with so much to see and so much to do. And the fact that I'll be there with Jimmy and company, well, anything goes. No doubt it'll be memorable and it'll be fun.
Follow Sonny Landreth here.