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Here’s hoping after they ask for “the envelope, please” they’ll announce that “The Road We’re On” has picked up a Grammy Award for Best Contemporary Blues Recording. The nomination is Sonny’s first, voting is underway, and ballots must be received in Los Angeles by Wednesday, Jan. 7. So if you’ve got a ballot, please consider voting in Field 13, Category 65, for nominee 3.
“Whoa! This feels every bit as good as I’d ever hoped and imagined,” Sonny says. “Everyone who worked on this project did a great job – I’m proud of them all.”
Sonny received the news in Key West while working on a new Jimmy Buffet album. “It was kind of funny because after the announcement in the studio and after all the cheering Jimmy told me I’d have to buy the drinks that night. It wasn’t until an hour later that we discovered Jimmy had also been nominated with Alan Jackson for ‘It’s Five O’Clock Somewhere.’ We were both more than glad to have the opportunity to split the tab.”
“He’s probably the most underestimated musician on the planet and also probably one of the most advanced.” – Eric Clapton
Many thanks to Michael Prager of the Boston Globe for tracking down that quote for his late August feature on Sonny advancing the band’s appearance at the Rhythm and Roots festival in Rhode Island.
In that same piece, Warren Haynes opines that Sonny is “nothing less than truly great. … He has a unique slant on slide-guitar playing, in that he has come up with some different tunings and ways of playing them that give him his own voice.”
Sonny joined Haynes and Gov’t Mule onstage at The Saenger Theater in New Orleans during Jazz Fest 2003 for the recording of “The Deepest End” CD/DVD. Sonny can be heard on “32/20 Blues” and heard and seen on “On Your Way Down.”
The project is part of an ongoing multi-artist tribute to the band’s late bassist (and Haynes’ fellow Allman Brothers alum) Allen Woody. “It was packed, it was late,” Sonny recalls. “I was really impressed with the way Warren and his wife Stephanie organized such a big event. Backstage there were great musicians at every turn, which was inspirational and made it a memorable night.”
Sonny’s 2003 solo tour of Japan took an interesting twist when Ike Turner, who was also on the bill, wasn’t allowed into the country. “The promoter asked me to become the headliner, and of course I was honored,” Sonny says. “Still, I felt somewhat concerned about following an eight-piece, kick-ass horn band. As it turned out, though, they sat in with me and vice versa. The next thing I know, The Kings of Rhythm joined me for ‘Congo Square’ and it was awesome. The band and the audience had a lot of fun.”
Another noteworthy musical connection took place in June in Alexander City, Ala., when Béla Fleck & The Flecktones invited Sonny to join them during their set. “There were thousands of people on this beautiful property out in the middle of nowhere. I love the opportunity to play with amazing musicians like that. It pushes me and keeps me on my toes. Béla and I played together with Little Feat on Columbus Day 2002, but this was the first chance I’d had to work with the whole band jamming on their songs.”
In recent months Sonny has also played a lot of dates with John Hiatt and The Goners, including many co-bills at home and abroad with the Robert Cray Band. “I first met Robert and his band back in the late ’80s with Hiatt,” Sonny relates. “It’s been a kind of reunion and a chance to hang out with each other again. He’s one of the best. Such a huge, soulful voice and guitar.”
Thanks to Andy Ellis and everyone at Guitar Player magazine for the eight-page illustrated spread on Sonny in their July issue. “Andy’s so insightful,” Sonny says. “He has a real gift for getting at the technique and translating it to the readers without losing sight of the significance of the actual music.” Pick up some tunings, licks and technique by ordering a back issue, which is available by calling (800) 444-4881, or, if you’re outside the U.S., (785) 838-7500.
Thanks, too, to Guitar One magazine for their April piece on Sonny, part of their ongoing “Under the Influence” feature on musicians and their inspiration.
Check our Lagniappe section for a new mp3 from the archives. This solo acoustic version of “Blues Attack” was recorded on Sept. 30, 1997, during a Baton Rouge Blues Week interview with David Dye for World Café. Engineer extraordinaire Tony Daigle was at the helm at Johnny Palazzotto’s studio.
“This song ended up being the title track for the album recorded in 1980, released in ’81, which sort of bridges my stint with Clifton Chenier and my work with Bayou Rhythm,” Sonny says. “It’s also one of the few tunes I’ve ever written that came to me all at once. I woke up one morning with this song in my head and literally wrote it on the way over to the studio in Crowley.”
“This version is completely stripped down with just vocal and my old National resonator guitar, which gives it more of the Delta vibe,” Sonny explains. “The guitar is tuned to open G [normally D-G-D-G-B-D low to high] but the difference here is I took the sixth string and tuned that sucker all the way down to a low G, an octave below the fifth string. The good news is you get that big low pedal tone. The bad news is it flops around. But it does give an edge that I like for country blues. Of all the incarnations of ‘Blues Attack,’ this is the only one like this on tape.”
On Saturday, Dec. 27, 2003, Sonny will play a hometown set with the rest of The Goners (bassist Dave Ranson and drummer Kenneth Blevins) before joining The Traiteurs onstage for the finale of Medicine Show 7 at Grant Street Dancehall in Lafayette, La. The annual holiday show is a benefit for the Dr. Tommy Comeaux Memorial Endowed Fund for Traditional Music, and the entire evening will once again be broadcast live beginning at 8 p.m. Central Time on KRVS 88.7 FM locally and worldwide via www.krvs.org.
Hope you can make it out or tune in and support the cause. Tickets - and donations - may be charged by phone by calling the Acadiana Arts Council at (337) 233-7060.
Thanks for your support, and please spread the word about SonnyLandreth.com and SlideLines.