Sonny Landreth
With Bob Putignano

The unique southwest Louisiana-based guitarist possesses an unorthodox guitar style that comes from the manner in which he simultaneously plays slide and makes fingering movements. Sonny Landreth was born February 1, 1951, in Canton, Mississippi, and his family lived in Jackson, Mississippi, for a few years before settling in Lafayette, Louisiana. Landreth still lives in southwest Louisiana

Landreth picked up a lot of notoriety from some record executives in Nashville, which in turn led to his recording and touring work with John Hiatt, which then led to work with John Mayall who recorded Landreth's radio-ready "Congo Square." He has also worked with New Orleans bandleader and piano legend Allen Toussaint, who makes guest appearances on several tracks on Sonny's South of I-10, as well as Rock 'n' Roll hero Dire Straits' Mark Knopfler.

Although his style is completely his own, Landreth states that Robert Johnson is one of his main heroes and also sites Charley Patton, Skip James, and Mississippi John Hurt as other main influences, but read on as Sonny also has a open-minded approach and high regard to more contemporary guitarists as well, and is well regarded by many of the greatest guitar players of the twentieth and twenty-first century. Bob Putignano for BluesWax: How you doing Sonny?

Sonny Landreth: Well, I'm doing great, and it's great to hear from you guys.

BW: I see you are back home in Louisiana.

SL: Ever so briefly.

BW: Where are you heading to next?

SL: To Moscow, Idaho. This will be the precursor to me and my band going to Moscow, Russia, in March of 2009.

BW: A double Moscow hit.

SL: That's right!

BW: That's pretty wild, have you ever been to Russia before?

SL: No, I haven't and I am looking forward to it. I've wanted to go there for a long time now.

BW: Your new CD, From the Reach, is really something, especially with all the featured guest artists. You really pulled all the stops out for this one.

SL: Well, I figured the worst thing that could have happened was be that everyone could have said, "No." [Laughs] And the real shocker for me was when everyone said, "Yes!" making From the Reach was a great adventure and I'm just thrilled with it. All of the artists did just a fantastic job with it, making it a dream come true for me.

BW: Look at this list of guests: Eric Clapton, Robben Ford, Vince Gill, Dr. John, Mark Knopfler, Eric Johnson, Jimmy Buffett, but I am not familiar with Nadirah Shakoor?

SL: I met Shakoor with Jimmy Buffett. I sit in with Jimmy's band from time to time and Shakoor is one of his background singers. She's coming out with an album of her own soon, too. Shakoor came down to Louisiana and my band backed on three tracks for her new recording. She did "Let It Fly" on my album and she's just a wonderful great singer; she's just amazing.

BW: Cool, I guess that explains the Jimmy Buffett connection for me. When I got your new disc I saw Buffett's name and said, "How did this happen?"

SL: Like you said, we just pulled out all the stops. [Laughs] But seriously, Buffett and I go way back and I really think he's amazing. He's got so much going on and he really has this ear for music, plus he's created that myth about himself, yet he would be the first one who would tell you that! But at the core, he's the classic troubadour, who came up back in the day who wrote all those great songs. Plus he's been very helpful to me as well.

If you really check it out, Buffett had connections with Mark Knopfler and Eric Clapton, too.

BW: Speaking of Clapton, that performance with you at the 2007 Crossroads was amazing.

SL: Thank you, that performance was the one for me. I've been listening to Eric forever and he's my original guitar hero. So at the Crossroads last year, man when he kicked into his solo on "Hell at Home" that's when it really hit me, and I said, "Oh, man, this is it!"

BW: Was that performance planned in advance? It looked a bit impromptu.

SL: Well, it was both. Eric really wanted to help out and we came on first again, just like we did on the first Crossroads show in Dallas four years ago. But this time he wanted to sit in, yet we winged it pretty much. That's what I love about that, it made the performance very spontaneous and it made for it to capture the heat of the moment.

BW: To continue on about Clapton, what were some of your favorite eras of Clapton growing up?

SL: Many eras, first with Mayall's Bluesbreakers, which was the vibe I was going for on the track Eric did on my disc, "Storm of Worry"; which reminds me of "Double Crossing Time" from Mayall's Bluesbreakers with Eric. Then there was Cream with the big Marshalls, followed by the time Eric spent with Delaney & Bonnie, that I dug too, which by then Eric was being more minimal with his playing and at that time he got turned on to the Robbie Robertson-approach of guitar playing from The Band. Which is how I found out about The Band's recording Music From Big Pink. I saw an interview with Clapton where he was raving about Big Pink, which I immediately bought that very same afternoon.

BW: That Band record really stands the test of time and does not receive the acclaim it should. It really had a huge effect on a lot of musicians and fans.

SL: That's right and The Band is really a cornerstone of the history. You cannot say enough about them. It really worked for me, with their songwriting and their whole concept. They were a big influence on me for sure.

BW: Robben Ford is one of my favorite people, both as a player and as a human being, how did you two get together?

SL: Robben's amazing! I met Robben way back in the Seventies when I was living in Colorado and, long story short, Michael Murphy's band was doing gigs with Robben when they were off the road with Murphy. So a friend of mine from Lafayette, Louisiana (Sam Broussard), who plays some acoustic guitar on my new CD, introduced me to Robben way back then and got me to sit in with Robben. And ever since then we've done a lot of shows together over the years.

BW: Did you hear the last record Robben did with Larry Carlton, Live In Tokyo?

SL: I sure did, plus I have these recordings that was recorded at a jam they used to do in L.A. with Robben Ford, Larry Carlton, Jeff Porcaro, the drummer with Toto, and they would have different guests that would sit in. Fast forward to three summers ago where there was a festival at Copper Mountain, Colorado, called Guitar Town, and Larry and Robben were both on the bill and I got to go to dinner with both of them after the show. I wanted to ask them a question about this cassette I had that was made around 1977 with Larry and Robben and immediately both of them said the name of the club.

BW: The Baked Potato?

SL: Yes that was it, the Baked Potato, thanks! And you know they recorded every night there, so there's a lot of that stuff floating around out there somewhere.

At that time those guys helped me get to getting to a different approach on my guitar, and it was Robben who said, "What you really ought to do, is when you go back to Louisiana, get a Blues band together and start playing slide guitar." So now that you've got me thinking about it, that's pretty much what I did. Which also reminds about an interview I did back in the Nineties in Montreal with Robben, and the interviewer asked me had we met before, and I said, "Yes," and Robben said, "Really? When was that?" So I reminded of him of that story I just told you and then he remembered. It's the fun of being on the road where that kind of cool stuff happens from time to time.

BW: It must be neat to have stuff like that happen, where you are noticed by your peers, and in this case your heroes.

SL: It is, as it's a great affirmation to work with your heroes and also become friends with them. And really these types of situations really push me to be a better player, too. Like that track "Milky Way Hero" with Eric Johnson.

BW: Eric Johnson, another killer guitarist from Austin.

SL: No doubt, and it was an amazing ride to work with him and the next thing I thought after we did that track was that I needed to go back and re-cut my guitar solo! [Laughs]

BW: Johnson is an amazing player. I saw him last year in Austin and he really blew me out. BW: How is your record, From The Reach, doing?

SL: It's doing great, plus we are doing a bunch of touring and I am really thankful of the PBS airings of the Crossroads video again, which has been so beneficial for me, plus I understand they are going to run them again in August, which can't hurt. I really appreciate the people coming out to see us play.

BW: Is there anymore talk of another Crossroads getting setup?

SL: I would think so, Clapton did not say for sure, but I have a feeling it will. It's really close to Eric's heart and that fact that he is so much about helping people; he's really special, so I think he's in an every three year or so pattern.

BW: Clapton is turning up on so many recordings this year.

SL: That's true, and again that's part of Clapton wanting to help out a lot of people wherever he can. He's on vacation now and it's a well-deserved break, but for somebody who keeps talking about getting off the road and not work so much, he sure stays pretty busy! [Laughs]

Bob Putignano: