July 2005

Sonny Landreth - Grant Street
Sugar Hill SUG CD 3994
Format: CD
Released: 2005

by David J. Cantor

Musical Performance ****
Recording Quality ****
Overall Enjoyment ****

Sonny Landreth plays like he was born with a guitar in his hands, and not like he wants his guitar to simply accompany his singing. Strongly rooted in rhythm & blues, Landreth’s playing shares with jazz -- and just a few other rock or R&B players -- a constant and surprising stretching of both instrument and player. Though his trademark technique uses the bottleneck slide, he can’t be pigeonholed. Many things go on at once -- pluckings strange and subtle as well as smooth shifts between techniques.

Cueing up Landreth's live Grant Street CD feels more like launching an album than playing it. A few bars of "Native Stepson" identifies the tune to fans. Then there is a musical journey that really goes places between occasional visits to the core riff. That happens on track after track. Sometimes you’re amazed that you can’t find a second guitar credit in the small print. Landreth is a competent songwriter, too. Grant Street contains no covers yet much variety in rhythm, tempo, and chord progression.

David Ransom on bass and Kenneth Blevins on drums make a fine rhythm section -- it’s easy to imagine this gig crashing rather than soaring if they didn’t rock. But each tune ends up a virtuoso Landreth affair. I am partial to up-tempo tracks like "Z. Rider" and the hot new "Pedal to Metal," but the moderate and slow ones hang together, too. Perhaps filling just about every minute with Landreth’s guitar missed the chance for the bass and drums to enlarge some of the songs, but that guitar sure is something!