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Wednesday, Sept. 17, 2008

Sonny Landreth

From the Reach (Landfall)

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  Incendiary slide-master Sonny Landreth cut his teeth and forged his way among John Hiatt's backing group The Goners in the late 1980s and '90s. And now, close on the heels of his former frontman's back-looking Same OldMan, Landreth offers one of his own reflective works of middle-aged pondering. Unlike Hiatt's effort, though, From the Reach borrows the guitarist's native post-Katrina sadness ("Blue Tarp Blues"), offers a number of superstar backers (Mark Knopfler, Eric Clapton) and, rather than simmer in autumnal years, flat-out burns.

  It's the same type of frenzied ball of Southern roadhouse bayou-blues-boogie that has marked most of his solo work since 1992's Outward Bound. And like the shortcomings of the five releases between then and now-somewhat uneven songwriting, pop-leaning production and steady if unspectacular singing chops-the reason for tuning in is still in the way that his otherwise innocuous piece of plastic floats up and down the fretboard, always finding its home but soaring ridiculously between stops.

  Put simply, Landreth was Derek Trucks before Trucks himself was in diapers. And like Trucks-what with the impossibly limber licks, utterly distinct tone and unparalleled electrified emotiveness-Landreth has carved out an exclusive niche as a guitar player's guitar player (supposedly Clapton favors him above all others). And while the magic is only fully evident in the flesh, each studio release sees this cipher of monstrous musicality inching closer to the light of the mainstream. In few other cases is that such a good thing.


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