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Greetings from Bayou Country
Sonny’s first-ever live disc, “Grant Street,” has garnered rave reviews and features in all sorts of publications, including a really cool instructional DVD feature in Guitar One magazine.
The band’s been all over in support of the record and is currently gearing up for the first Jazz Fest since Hurricanes Katrina and Rita devastated so much of the Gulf Coast. The storms sent plenty of refugees to Sonny’s home in the south-central Acadiana region and so many people are still struggling to rebuild their lives.
Sonny and the band have played a number of benefits since the hurricanes, including Band Together, which was held in downtown Lafayette, La. between the storms and heard in part on the nationally-syndicated public radio show American Routes.
Sonny was asked to record a rendition of Randy Newman’s mournful, elegiac “Louisiana 1927” several months before the storms and flooding hit, and that track is now available on “Sail Away,” a tribute album featuring new interpretations of Newman’s work by Steve Earle, Joe Ely, Tim O’Brien, Béla Fleck, Sam Bush, Marc Broussard and other artists.
“They approached me to do the song over a year ago and I felt like it was untouchable because the original was a classic and perfect,” Sonny says. “But as I kept working on it, I felt like I hit on an angle that made sense. And then after the hurricanes I felt like I had to do it in hopes of keeping the situation along the Gulf Coast in people’s minds throughout the rest of country and world.”
Sonny’s version is “more stripped down – the original featured a full orchestra and no electric guitar, for starters,” he explains. “My version concentrates on the combo and finger-picked slide guitar.” Basic tracks for the song were cut at La Louisianne in Lafayette, where Sonny played his first sessions in 1969, and the recording also features Steve Conn on keys. The final product, Sonny says, “is a little moodier but also offers an affirmation of hope.”
Sonny also recently participated in sessions for Jimmy Buffett’s forthcoming album, and will join The Coral Reefer Band for several shows in June and August. Other recent sessions have included work with Mike Post on a multi-artist blues project; tracking for Irma Thomas’ new CD, “After the Rain,” recorded at Dockside Studios in Maurice, La.; and work on the forthcoming Little Feat album.
Last December, Sonny joined the Acadiana Symphony Orchestra in Lafayette as a special guest. “Tackling Bach on slide guitar was both a humbling and thrilling experience,” he says. “The beautiful melodies were very difficult to achieve and I had to really work at it, but it’s something I’ve always wanted to do. In fact I’ve heard that sound in my head for a long time and I’m grateful to Maestro Marius Smolij for giving me a chance to explore something I’ve wanted to for a long time.”
The setlist included: Bach’s “Cantata No. 140;” the big band piece “Nick’s Blues;” the Christmas number “Got To Get You Under My Tree;” the Sonny instrumentals “For You and Forever” and “Baresso;” and “Home Free,” a song Sonny and Gary Nicholson wrote in memory of Tommy Comeaux.
Later that month, Sonny was again part of Medicine Show, the annual tribute and fundraiser dance held to benefit the Comeaux Fund. A special highlight of Medicine Show 9 at Grant Street Dancehall was the presentation of a check from Sonny’s Krewe for more than $10,000 raised through Sonny Landreth merchandise sales in support of the development of the traditional music program at the University of Louisiana at Lafayette.
“I was incredibly touched by their efforts and dedication throughout the entire year,” Sonny says. “The fact that they came to so many of our gigs across the country and tirelessly and unselfishly raised this much money for the fund was amazing. I feel like they helped raise the awareness of our goal and the campaign committee and Comeaux family are extremely grateful.”
In January, Sonny traveled to Manhattan to participate in “Blues Fallin’ Down Like Rain,” a tribute to the music of Skip James with Cindy Cashdollar, Alvin Youngblood Hart and other artists. In March, Cindy joined Sonny in Austin at the annual Ray Benson benefit birthday bash during the South by Southwest music and media festival.
Looking ahead, the band’s about to embark on their annual Jazz Fest run with several gigs in New Orleans both weekends. Dates in North Carolina, Virginia, Oklahoma, Tennessee, Arkansas, Missouri and Illinois are also on their itinerary, so please be sure to check our Tour Dates section to see if they’re headed your way.
Thanks as always for your support, and please spread the word about SonnyLandreth.com and SlideLines.