STORY WRITTEN BY ROB NAGY
For Digital First Media
It took blues slide guitar phenom Sonny Landreth half a lifetime to gain recognition internationally. Heralded as “The King of Slydeco,” with deep roots tied to the Zydeco music of Louisiana, Landreth has spent the last two decades earning his place as one of music’s most dynamic guitarists.
“When I started getting national and international attention, it came really from my work with John Hiatt,” recalls Landreth from his home in Breau Bridge, Louisiana. “Working with him in the late 80’s, he had this album called ‘Bring The Family’ charting on Billboard’s Top 200. The critics loved it, and it had Jim Keltner, Ry Cooder and Nick Lowe. Not a bad line-up. Off the cuff, they recorded the album in a couple of days. So it was very spontaneous. It was a great collection of songs. Because of the acclaim from that, people came out to hear him supporting the album. So that gave us a lot of attention. That’s what started the whole thing.”
Signed to BMG Records in 1992 while in his early 40’s, Landreth released his debut album “Outward Bound.” He hit the ground running and has never looked back. With more than a dozen solo albums to his credit, he has also worked with Jimmy Buffett, Marshall Crenshaw, Eric Johnson, John Mayall and Mark Knopfler.
Landreth was recognized within the industry as “Instrumentalist of the Year” by the American Music Association in 2005 and received a Blues Music Award in the “Instrumental Guitar” category in 2016.
Eric Clapton has said, “Landreth is one of the most advanced guitarists in the world and one of the most under-appreciated.” Landreth shared the stage with Clapton at the Crossroads Guitar Festivals in 2004, 2007, 2010 and 2013.
“You have to do the years of wood shedding on your instrument to have the opportunity ready. So that’s really important. That’s the experience that gives you the character. You have to live it. That’s the difference.”
“I haven’t achieved the level of status of some of my friends and that’s fine as long as I get to do what I want to do,” adds Landreth. “Fortunately I always have. I’ve never been under the pressure of a label or producer or anything like that who wanted me to do anything I didn’t want to do. I feel privileged to do what I do and in the way I get to do it. I’m grateful forever. Keep the wheels turning.”
As a follow-up to his 2015 album release, “Bound by the Blues,” Landreth is making plans to record a live album featuring new material, songs never performed live and selections from his deep catalog.
“We’re going to record a live album in January at the James Moncus Theater in the Acadiana Center for the Arts in downtown Lafayette, Louisiana,” says Landreth. “That’s a real nice theater. It’s really one of my favorite places to play. We’re basically going to do two nights. We re going to record everything for two nights and the best stuff that comes out will make the record.”
“Live recording is always a bit of a roll of the dice,” adds Landreth. “We usually have a set list, changing up some things to keep it different. It’s always good to change things up. Then we’re going to throw in a couple of others that nobody has heard in a long time or we’ve never played for an audience. It’s going to be a good mix.”
Landreth’s decades of determination have paid off in the form of well-deserved adulation. He remains humbled by the praise and never takes his success for granted.
“I always wanted to accomplish something in the way of keeping the bar high,” says Landreth. “I was brought up with a lot of teachers that I had at school. They impressed upon me through the great classical and jazz masters. It was something that they had us do our whole lives and there’s really no end to that. When you think about it there’s really no end to creativity.”
“Probably the best affirmation of that kind of stuff is that you keep learning new things and coming up with new ideas, new sounds. I live for that,” adds Landreth. “As long as that keeps coming and as long as you stay focused and work at it, it’s the greatest thing that comes out of all of that.”
In spite of his notoriety among his peers and guitar aficionados, Landreth continues to raise the bar in his quest to achieve a greater level of success.
“You have to work hard at this,” says Landreth. “When you make the decision that you’ll make this your career and you want to take it as far as you can and you want to go for it, it takes, like anything, a lot of hard work.”
“I’m grateful that people come out and show up at all,” adds Landreth. “A lot of people that come out are touched by my music and the guys I work with. You don’t take that for granted. I cherish this. So, I think that’s the balance. You should have gratitude and appreciation for what you do and what you have. I have friends that will tell me when I don’t play well (laughs).”
IF YOU GO
What: Sonny Landreth & Cindy Cashdollar
When: Friday, Sept. 23, at 8 p.m.
Where: Sellersville Theater, 24 W. Temple Ave., Sellersville.
Tickets: $29.50 to $45.
Info.: Visit www.st94.com.