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Sonny Landreth Profile

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Slide guitarist Sonny Landreth

Slide guitarist Sonny Landreth

Photo by Sandro, courtesy Cary Baker's Conqueroo

Born: February 1, 1951 in Canton MS

No less an authority than the legendary Eric Clapton has called slide guitarist Sonny Landreth "the most underestimated musician on the planet and also probably one of the most advanced." During a career that has spanned four decades, Landreth has earned a well-deserved reputation as a gifted slide guitarist, whose unique playing style mixes traditional slide with the unconventional technique of fretting the strings behind the slide. Throw in Landreth's songwriting skills, and you have an exciting and original artist whose work plumbs the depth of roots-rock and swamp-blues.

Slide Guitarist Sonny Landreth

Born in Mississippi, Landreth's family moved to Lafayette, Louisiana while he was a child, and the guitarist still lives in Southwest Louisiana. Landreth played the trumpet as a youth, but switched over to guitar as a teen. Inspired by Scotty Moore of Elvis Presley's band, Landreth later expanded his musical vocabulary to include influences like the Ventures and country guitarist Chet Atkins. It was the slide guitar that captured his imagination, though, and Landreth has cited Robert Johnson, Charley Patton, and Mississippi John Hurt among his guitar idols.

After performing in different bands as a teenager, Landreth's first professional gig was with zydeco great Clifton Chenier, touring as part of the singer's Red Beans and Rice Revue during the 1970s. Launching his solo career a few years later, Landreth recorded two albums - 1981's Blues Attack and 1985's Way Down In Louisiana - for a small Louisiana independent label. The latter album brought the talented six-string wizard to the attention of singer/songwriter John Hiatt, which led to Landreth touring and recording as part of Hiatt's band The Goners.

Sideman & Solo Artist

Throughout the 1980s and '90s, and to the present day, Landreth has enjoyed a comfortable career as the consummate session professional, touring and recording with a veritable "who's who" of contemporary musical talent. Aside from Hiatt, Landreth has lent his considerable six-string talents to artists like Junior Wells, John Mayall, Irma Thomas, and Clarence "Gatemouth" Brown, among dozens of others in the blues, rock, Cajun, and country genres.

Landreth renewed his critically-acclaimed solo career with 1992's tentative Outward Bound. Subsequent albums have honed Landreth's creative focus, showcasing his growing lyrical skills, the guitarist's songs a mix of William Faulkner-influenced storytelling and Tennessee Williams-styled Southern Gothic imagery. Albums like 1995's South of I-10, 2000's Levee Town, and 2008's From The Reach have cemented the perception of Landreth as an engaging singer, erudite songwriter, and phenomenal, albeit still underrated guitarist.

Recommended Albums: Because no single record label has been able to harness Sonny Landreth's muse for long, a career retrospective is probably out of the question for the foreseeable future. However, Landreth's 1995 album, South of I-10, portrays the singer, songwriter and guitarist in the best light, perfectly framing his joyful mix of roots-rock, New Orleans-styled blues, zydeco, and Cajun music.

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