The slide guitar is a blues invention, so it's natural to assume that top-notch contemporary slide players -- from Eric Clapton to Mick Taylor to the late Stevie Ray Vaughan -- use the blues tradition as their foundation. But that's only partly true of Sonny Landreth, who appears at the Broadway Oyster Bar on Sunday. Landreth, who makes his home in the Cajun heartland of southwestern Louisiana, is regarded by many fellow musicians and critics as the best slide player on the planet. And although he bases much of his approach on blues (after all, Landreth was born in Canton, Miss.), he's developed an amazing technique that takes slide guitar to a whole new level. Landreth has found a way to combine finger-picked chords with slide work, augmenting his sound with layers and overtones.But there's more to Landreth's music than his great slide-guitar playing, which he's demonstrated over the years on records by John Hiatt, Clifton Chenier, Marcia Ball, Marshall Crenshaw, John Mayall, Zachary Richard and a host of others. A talented songwriter, Landreth shows a deft lyrical touch on his latest recording, Levee Town. Essentially, Levee Town completes a trilogy that Landreth began in 1992 with Outward Bound and picked up again in 1995 with South of I-10. Although claims of intricately linked trilogy recordings usually cause this writer's eyes to glaze over like a fresh Krispy Kreme rolling off the line, there's no denying that Landreth has managed to capture a real sense of place on these three recordings -- especially on Levee Town, which creates a kind of Cajun "anytown" -- humid, thick with Spanish moss and populated with recurring characters.
If you're a fan of Landreth's, you've no doubt already made plans to check him out at the Oyster Bar. After all, it's one thing to hear him create that incredible slide-guitar sound on recordings; it's quite another to see him do it live, backed by his touring band of David Ranson on bass and Michael Organ on drums.