Sonny Landreth, Jamie McLean Band, World Cafe Live, Philadelphia, PA, October 10, 2014

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Photography by Steven Philips StSteven.com, Words by Allison Saft

Sonny Landreth played The World Café Live, downstairs, on Friday, October 10th (can you believe it’s October already?) The entire venue was packed with chairs and tables, a sight I had never before witnessed at this location, and gave a totally different vibe, relaxed, inviting, and sophisticated. The show was short and sweet, packed with a range of blues, rock and roll, country, and the genre that seems to encompass all three: rockabilly. In my opinion, his strongest style was the classic New Orleans slide guitar blues, but he certainly had a surprisingly proficient style of “rock-ability” as well. His music conveyed soul, wisdom, and passion, the way this genre should be played. Sonny switched guitars practically every song, either because the slide playing made it go out of tune quickly or they were at different tunings or tonal settings. Or that it looked cooler (which it did).
Sonny was clearly the star, but his drummer rivaled him in enthusiasm. Even when the song started losing steam, he forged ahead and pepped it up to the necessary maximum level and appeared to be flying across the drum set, smiling, and occasionally standing, so moved was he by the music. The beat was solid and the all the right accents you could imagine, highly conducive to dancing, and in the case of this audience, seated dancing. The bass player seemed like a living legend and had a familiar look that I just couldn’t place. I later realized I probably saw him play with another blues performer, or he just reminded me of Phil Lesh. I even thought they were covering the Grateful Dead’s “The Wheel” at one point; clearly my mind was set.

Sonny Landreth

Sonny Landreth

There is nothing quite like hearing live slide guitar and Landreth has more than earned his chops in this regard. This sound which Sonny captured from fingers to soul is the most invigorating and emotion charging to my ear of all sounds, and when the show ended I felt a genuine wave of sadness. I tried to soothe my aching heart with requests like “just two more!” but alas, I had to settle for one encore, though it was long and lively, so that was something.

Sonny Landreth

Sonny Landreth

Sonny revealed to me at his “meet and greet, photograph and sign anything that’s sign-able” area after the show that he was working on a new album with blues inspiration. He’s playing classic blues tunes, but putting a new spin on them, and creating some of his own pieces in the process. It will be an interwoven journey and he hopes to invigorate something old, something new, something borrowed, something blues. Wow, that was bad even for my standard of cheese. He also told me he was happy to play Philly again and had done so many times, and I was disappointed this was only my first time checking him out. My mother has seen him a bunch…one of many instances in which I should have listened to her sooner. I will be checking out his new album, which should come out sometime in March 2015, as well as Sonny himself next time he comes around, and I suggest you do likewise.

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