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Sonny Landreth
THE ROAD WE’RE ON
(SUGAR HILL)

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Although he apprenticed as a sideman under the talented songwriter John Hiatt (as well as zydeco innovator Clifton Chenier), guitarist Sonny Landreth has never been much of a lyricist. And he’s only an adequate singer. Which is to say that his solo recordings have been spotty at best.

Landreth is an extraordinary slide-guitarist, however, and this release brings his six-string skills to the fore. Like his earlier albums and like Landreth himself, who was born in Mississippi and grew up in Louisiana, the disc straddles blues, Cajun, zydeco, and New Orleans good-time music. But this time blues is the backbone, providing the kind of spare-but-solid chordal support that gives his slide work absolute freedom — which he uses to build Allman Bros.–like riffs, to stir up street-parade funk, and to conjure the days of the music’s Delta birth on his Stratocaster, lap steel, and resonator guitars. And his playing always stands out in the mix. The best tune — and it may be Landreth’s finest realization of his overall artistry — is "A World Away." He moves his voice down into his rarely used soft, lower register to sculpt a sensitive tale of resigned heartbreak, then builds melodies from slow, moaning, steel-on-steel guitar lines that purr with lightly sugar-dipped sadness. It’s genuinely touching.

BY TED DROZDOWSKI

Issue Date: January 30 - February 6, 2003
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