Sonny Landreth has just released a new album. Who? Well that’s what I thought when the small blue cardboard slip case slid out of the envelope into my hand. Okay, from the blurb he is not exactly local (how far is Cornwall from Louisiana?). But this is his 11th album, and after a quick trawl of the internet it appears that this chap is one hell of a blues musician.
However, I have not heard any of his stuff, and for the purposes of this review, I avoided hunting down any of his previous work for comparison.
This is his first full instrumental album, and he has pulled in the talents of Joe Satriani, Eric Johnson, and Robert Greenidge. At the time I was unaware of the presence of Mr. Satriani, and thought as I listened to the first track Gaia Tribe that the style sounded very familiar. Having had the pleasure of seeing him live, and after noting his name on the track listing that had popped up in iTunes the penny dropped, I could hear the stylings of Satriani.
The whole album is a complex layered album with a wide range of musical styles, and a great range of instruments building up these layers. This all goes together to produce an album that has a wide range of styles and themes that produce something very enjoyable to listen to, so much so when the album finishes the time has flown by!
“From day one on the guitar, many genres of music have had an impact on me” says Landreth. “For these recordings, I drew from some of those influences that I hadn’t gone to on previous albums with my vocals. Trading off the lyrics this time, I focused solely on the instrumental side and all this music poured out. Then I asked some extraordinary musicians to help me layer the tracks in hopes of inspiring a lot of imagery for the listeners.”
As this is an instrumental album, the focus towards music is greatly increased without the distraction of vocals, or the inherent imagery provided by the lyrical content. Again Landreth states that “One of the things I’ve always loved about a good instrumental song is that it can be more impressionistic and abstract, Though melody is always important, it’s even more significant with an instrumental. So what I wanted to achieve was something more thematic with lots of melodies and with a chordal chemistry that was harmonically rich. That’s when I got the idea to treat the arrangements with more layering and to have the melodies interweave like conversations. I also wanted it to be more diverse, to not adhere to any categories. I wanted to leave it wide open to possibility.”
And this he has achieved in this album, from the opening “Gaia Tribe”, through the airy Calypso styled “Forgotten Story, to the wonderfully upbeat “Reckless Beauty”, and then closing with the thoughtful “Opening Sky”, and lovely strings accompaniment. There is some very impressive guitar work throughout, made all the more striking when there are no vocals to distract you from the guitar work.
All with only a hint of blues between all the country, jazz, and rock themes and and sales, no doubt there are more which I missed! Although, I might try and hunt down some of his previous work.
I appreciate that an instrumental album built predominantly solely around guitar work is not going to be everyones cup of tea. But if you have a relaxing afternoon then this album might just fill that gap with its soundscapes, melodies, and imagery.
Gaia Tribe (feat. Joe Satriani)
For You And Forever
Heavy Heart Rising
Passionola (feat. Eric Johnson)
Brave New Girl
Forgotten Story (feat. Robert Greenidge)
Words by Jon.