Premier Guitar features affiliate links to help support our content. We may earn a commission on any affiliated purchases.

Album Review: Sonny Landreth - "Elemental Journey"

Landreth ventures into new territory with "Elemental Journey," an all-instrumental affair with 11 Landreth originals.

Sonny Landreth
Elemental Journey
Landfall Records


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 heard before.

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”

While Annie Clark was named the 26th greatest guitarist of all time by Rolling Stone in 2023, she couldn’t care less about impressing an athletic stamp on either her sound or her image.


Photo by Alex Da Corte

On her eighth studio release, the electroacoustic art-rock guitarist and producer animates an extension of the strange and singular voice she’s been honing since her debut in 2007.

“Did you grow up Unitarian?” Annie Clark asks me. We’re sitting in a control room at Electric Lady Studios in New York’s West Village, and I’ve just explained my personal belief system to her, to see if Clark, aka St. Vincent, might relate and return the favor. After all, does she not possess a kind of sainthood worth inquiring about?

Read MoreShow less

Slinky playability, snappy sounds, and elegant, comfortable proportions distinguish an affordable 0-bodied flattop.

Satisfying, slinky playability. Nice string-to-string balance. Beautiful, comfortable proportions.

Cocobolo-patterned HPL back looks plasticky.

$699

Martin 0-X2E
martinguitar.com

4
4
4.5
4

Embracing the idea of an acoustic flattop made with anything other than wood can, understandably, be tricky stuff. There’s a lot of precedent for excellent-sounding acoustics built with alternative materials, though. Carbon-fiber flattops can sound amazing and I’ve been hooked by the sound and playability of Ovation and Adamas instruments many times.

Read MoreShow less

Mdou Moctar has led his Tuareg crew around the world, but their hometown performances in Agadez, Niger, last year were their most treasured.

Photo by Ebru Yildiz

On the Tuareg band’s Funeral for Justice, they light a fiery, mournful pyre of razor-sharp desert-blues riffs and political calls to arms.

Mdou Moctar, the performing moniker of Tuareg guitar icon Mahamadou “Mdou” Souleymane, has played some pretty big gigs. Alongside guitarist Ahmoudou Madassane, drummer Souleymane Ibrahim, and bassist Mikey Coltun, Moctar has led his band’s kinetic blend of rock, psych, and Tuareg cultural traditions like assouf and takamba to Newport Folk Festival, Pitchfork Music Festival, and, just this past April, to the luxe fields of Indio, California, for Coachella. Off-kilter indie-rock darlings Parquet Courts brought them across the United States in 2022, after which they hit Europe for a run of headline dates.

Read MoreShow less

How do you capture what is so special about Bill Frisell’s guitar playing in one episode? Is it his melodies, his unique chord voicings, his rhythmic concept, his revolutionary approach to pedals and sounds…? It’s all of that and much more.

Read MoreShow less