Sonny Landreth: Levee Town (Expanded Edition)

sonnylandreth_leveetownExpanded edition of Landreth’s blues-rocker

Originally released in 2000 by Sugar Hill, Landreth’s album is augmented on this reissue with five tracks from the same era. As on last year’s From the Reach, Landreth proves himself a guitar hero whose music runs deeper than his incomparable slide work. His songs, all seventeen are originals, are more than showcases for his instrumental prowess. To be sure, his powerful slide playing is a dominant voice, but his vocals are roughly melodic and emotional, his blues are seasoned with second-line rhythms, and his lyrics chronicle the people, stories and ghosts of his native South. He sings of social and political pressures, but also finds time to revel in the delights of a comically oversized Oldsmobile.

The album’s basic tracks were produced in Los Angeles by Mike Post, and then finished by Landreth and R.S. Field. The results are occasionally too polished, and the edgy guitar harmonics can sound dated; yet when Landreth is left to indulge his guitar playing, such as on the standard blues “Broken Hearted Road,” the results are electrifying. The power-trio instrumental “Z-Rider” with a Zydeco double-kickbeat neatly evokes the open throttle thrills of trail riding, Bonnie Raitt adds a superb harmony to “Soul Salvation,” Michael Doucet plays fiddle on “Love and Glory,” and horns add sparkle to the album’s last two tracks.

The bonuses were recorded between 1998 and 2000, with the same core quartet as the album, and sweetened for this reissue. Fans of Landreth’s slide playing will enjoy the four instrumentals, but the sleeper is a fetching duet with Jennifer Warnes, “For Who We Are (The Night Bird Sings).” The deluxe packaging includes a tri-fold digipack, a 28-page booklet, complete lyrics and an additional two-page insert with the bonus disc. Those who own the original might be inclined to get the whole package for its remastered audio, but the bonus tracks, particularly the Warnes duet are the real sweetener. [©2009 hyperbolium dot com]

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