Sonny Landreth
"Grant Street"
(Sugar Hill)

Down In Louisiana, South Of I-10, Levee Town, and now Grant Street-slide guitar phenom Sonny Landreth wants you to know he's from Lafayette, dammit. Which makes sense, actually: his guitar playing doesn't quite give his breeding away, for one because the blues is truly universally all right, and for two because Sonny's unique style sounds like it came from another planet entirely. You can describe his combination slide and hammer-on technique, but only by how much other guitarists fall short of him; if you think Jonny Lang's badly overrated or Steve Vai's not soulful enough or Clapton's stopped trying, then chances are you've already sought out and bought all the Sonny Landreth CDs you could find. This new one, however, is his first live offering, and for a musician like this, that means he's at his purest. Longtime fans, you may also prepare your asses to be rocked.

Landreth is also a solid songwriter, a roots scholar of sorts, and an excellent, under appreciated vocalist; just listen to the spooky way he doubles his guitar gymnastics on "Broken Hearted Road," for example. These 11 tracks, however (eight fan favorites and three new cuts, recorded at the Grant Street Dance Hall last year) are a guitar geek's delight-lyrical when they jam and ferocious even in the midst of deep meditation. It'd be hard to say exactly what musical boundaries are being crossed during, say, "Port Of Calling," so adept is Sonny at darting between his influences and coming up with his own unique thang. He does call out a few points of interest with titles like "Blues Attack" and "U.S.S. Zydecoldsmobile," but where he goes once he gets traveling is anyone's guess-rock? jazz? classical? Your best bet, especially this time out, is just to hang on and enjoy it. The audience certainly sounds like they did.

-Robert Fontenot