The King of Slydeco, Sonny Landreth returns with a career spanning live double album, his first for 12 years. Recorded over three shows in Lafayette, the album opens with an acoustic set on disc one before shifting gear and plugging in for disc two.
The acoustic set adds a different musical flavour to Landreth's work, dating back to his time in Clifton Chenier's Red Hot Louisiana Band, making the musical lineage of Slydeco ring loud and clear. Whilst The King of Zydeco's musical gumbo blended Cajun and Creole music with R & B, blues and jazz, Landreth mixed things up further by adding a Strat and a bottleneck to forge his own style, but the roots are still the same.
The acoustic section of the album begins way back in 1981 with a swinging version of Blues Attack which has a peppering of the accordion that leans towards the traditional French Musical ancestry of Cajun music. Part of the aim of the live show was to give his musicians as much room for flexibility and plenty of showtime to cut loose; nowhere is this more evident than on A World Away. The lazy southern feel of the song drips with heat soaked ardour and the instrumental section has some of the best playing on the album. The High Side dips more into the forbidden waters of country music which was traditionally eschewed by Creole musicians but embraced by Cajun artists. These days the blending of genres has once again become fashionable and this track is an example of that musical nexus. U.S.S. Zydecoldsmobile also gets the unplugged treatment, alongside a rare rendition of Creole Angel and his 'theme song', the old standard, Key To The Highway.
Disc two moves away from the alternative exploration of Landreth's music and returns to more of a blues-rock style with Back To Bayou Teche kicking off the more bluesy set. Even though they appear on different albums, Brave New Girl and Umbresso have become synonymous together live. Landreth has often said that these two pieces are some of the most nuanced and difficult he has ever played. Hearing them back to back, he hardly appears to break into a sweat, but he evidently takes the tracks in his stride – such is his skill. Soul Salvation, written for his mother pulls back from the gutsy blues sound and into a swaying dance track, before Walkin' Blues and The One and Only Truth wrap up some of the best music this side of the Bayou.
Just like the dance halls that birthed the genre, there's an enormous sense of Bon Temps on this album. It has the vigour of a show that could have been played outside at a festival in the way the crowd whoop and cheer at every solo with vibrant appreciation and expert cohesion of the band. Although the recording is a first class documentation of a great concert, to have had a live DVD included to see the dexterity and skill of Landreth and the band up close would have been a little something extra to round off this diverse live album.
Groupie Rating 4/5