If you’re a fan of Sonny Landreth’s groundbreaking
slide guitar and are familiar with
some of his previous work, prepare to be
surprised with Elemental Journey, his 11th
solo release. It represents a real departure from his earlier albums.
Yes, all Landreth’s trademark sounds—the churning, fret-behind-the-slide riffs,
bouncy Cajun rhythms, and fat, soaring lines—are here in spades. His intonation and
vibrato are as precise and electrifying as ever, and when it comes to wielding a bottleneck
with precision at warp speed, Landreth is still the hands-down champ.
But in terms of material, Landreth ventures into new territory with Elemental
Journey. For starters, it’s an all-instrumental affair with 11 Landreth originals. Instead
of pursuing swampy, roots-rock sounds—a world he knows so well—here the
Louisiana native reaches for more cinematic textures and grander musical themes.
And wait until you hear the string arrangements, which play a featured role on five
of the pieces. These strings aren’t simply incidental ear candy or background sounds
added to sweeten the mix. Rather, they play a key role in the ensemble itself, weaving,
pulsing, and wrapping around Landreth’s singing slide to create a sound I’ve never
Sam Broussard—a superb slide player in his own right—did the string arrangements,
and his impressionistic colors infuse the music with an edgy, yet majestic vibe.
Landreth and Broussard collaborated closely to write the parts, which were beautifully
performed by members of the Acadiana Symphony Orchestra and conducted by the
critically acclaimed Mariusz Smolij.
If you’ve heard Robert Kirby’s brilliant string arrangements on Nick Drake’s Five
Leaves Left and Bryter Layter, then you already have a sense of how Broussard’s efforts
enhance Landreth’s music. The effect is that potent.
Eric Johnson and Joe Satriani each make a guest appearance on a song. Both play
magnificently and add a rocking thrust to Landreth’s more soulful delivery, but—at
least to these ears—it’s the combination of strings and slide that creates the deep mojo
on Elemental Journey. —Andy Ellis
Must-hear track: “Brave New Girl”