Sonny Landreth Live @ Eddie’s Attic

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Not every concert I go to is an “automatic” ticket buy.  This one was not, but it lay just outside the bull's-eye of “purchased,” attempting to climb over a dreaded wall of weeknight timing, finding appropriate company, and, always, price.  The wall got a little lower as travel expectations became clearer for a Tuesday night.  My concert buddy… on kid duty.  My son… doing his kid duty by studying for a college exam.  My wife… “At Eddie’s Attic?.  Hmm.  Let me hear a sample.”  Twenty seconds into a bluesy YouTube video, “Okay.”  And pricing, well, you pay what you must, but it’s not like it’s a big arena deal.  There is the x 2 factor, but the wall was low enough to step over.

Sonny Landreth is a slide guitar player who plays variations of the blues, but with a sound that is distinct and not, in an Eric Clapton comparison, commercially accessible.   He’s quite the technician, though, and one that I’ve been wanting to see for the last six years, which was when I first heard of him.

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Excuse the reflective window in the poster, but Eddie’s places their current concert in an enclosed glass cabinet.  As the poster says, the show also included Cindy Cashdollar, a steel guitar and Dobro player.  The concert included just the two of them, which turned out quite well.  Eddie’s is a small, long term Atlanta venue where people gather to listen to the music, and a limited number of musicians on stage doesn’t risk muddling the sound.

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Landreth began the show solo, playing about 5 songs.  One of these was, I believe, “Next of Kindred Spirit,” an instrumental piece that showed off his playing style perfectly (video at end).  Landreth plays with a very intent expression, appropriate for an exacting sound with a clumsy device (slide).  He plays with the slide on his pinky finger, and his other fingers keep a minimalist motion for making chords.

His right hand, in my wife’s word, is “elegant.”  He uses all five fingers, picking with his thumb, and spends a notable amount of time watching that hand, a place where most guitarists rarely look.   There’s a natural rhythm, pacing, and fluidity that he maintains that makes it look much easier than it is.

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He also will play all over the neck of the guitar, sometimes ahead of his slide in an awkward crossed arm posture, and very often he will brush the strings with his palm while adjusting a foot pedal to create something like a crying sound.  And other times, he’s hammering or slapping the strings.  It’s obvious he mastered how to use the slide then spent a lot of time trying to coax different sounds out of what is a fairly uniform style when heard.

Cindy Cashdollar joined in with “Blues Attack,” and the rest of the evening held the pattern of Landreth singing and alternating guitar solos.  Both her style and sound leaned towards Country Blues, but it played well with Landreth whose vocal delivery almost leans that way.  The pair sounded best when they played together rather than one soloing such as in their encore, “Seashells,” which may be a converted Hawaiian slack key guitar song.

Otherwise, the set included Skip James’ “Cherry Ball Blues,” Robert Johnson’s “Walking Blues,” Rolling Stones’ “Prodigal Son,” Elmore James’ “It Hurts Me Too,” Big Bill Broonzy’s often covered “Key to the Highway,” and Landreth’s “South of I-10,” “Hell at Home,” “Zydeco Shuffle” and “Blues Attack.”  There were others as well.

Landreth is entertaining in his commentary to a point.  Although relaxed and friendly, he sees reluctant to “own” the stage, speaking off to the side while looking at no one in particular, not that he isn’t listening to the audience.  It’s also likely he’s used to playing rowdier places than Eddie’s.  It’s a hard place to get people to dance.  

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Cashdollar was a quiet presence, going about her business, occasionally giving Landreth a happy look, which he probably never saw being focused on his guitar.

I’d like to see Landreth again, but with a full band and with the amplifier turned up.  Someday.

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3 of 5 STARS

 

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