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Not quite up to his own standards

From the Reach
From the Reach
By Sonny Landreth

Landfall Records: 2008

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This review first appeared in Turbula in June 2008.

Unlike many of the guest-duet records that have flooded the shelves over the past two decades (ever since the now-deceased blues legend John Lee Hooker rode 1989's "The Healer" and its mega-star guest list to a major comeback), Louisiana guitarist Sonny Landreth's new CD is still firmly his own. For much of the album, guests Eric Clapton, Dr. John, Jimmy Buffett, Mark Knopfler, Eric Johnson, Vince Gill and Robben Ford are almost anonymous in the final mix.

So it's not a dilution of Landreth own considerable talent or a veering away from the swamp blues that is his bread and butter that keeps this album from being as good as one would like a Sonny Landreth album to be. Rather, it's a lack of memorable songs. There are no songwriting credits listed on the album's liner notes, so it's likely Landreth wrote them all. And while they're all serviceable blues/boogie numbers, there's not a single classic melody among them – nothing for Landreth or his heavyweight guests to hang their playing on.

There are some nice moments here. The opening track ("Blue Tarp Blues"), with Knopfler, has a nice Dire Straits groove to it. And on "Blue Angel," Ford and Landreth trade a couple of truly tasty guitar solos – the definite highlight of the album for blues fans.

For the rest, it's all nice enough – but not on the level we expect from Landreth.