Sonny Landreth, who performs Aug. 26 at the Crystal Bay Club Casino, is determined to retain his youthful innocence.
"As a child, everything is very pure," he said. "It's all very natural. The intellectual aspect doesn't get in the way."
For Landreth, 53, losing that perspective would be as devastating as losing his ability to play slide guitar.
"Along the way, a lot of people lose that (innocence)," he said in a recent interview with the Reno Gazette-Journal. "It gets lost in the shuffle with the daily grind and the pressures of life. So when I think back (to childhood), if I can maintain at least a part of that excitement - and basically what we're talking about is magic - then I've got something."
For Landreth, who recently released "The Road We're On" on the Sugar Hill label, music is the thread that binds his life. As a child growing up in south Louisiana, Landreth was introduced to a variety of music, including jazz, rock, blues, R&B and zydeco. He picked up a trumpet at 10 and put it down at 13. He then grabbed a guitar, and he's still holding on tight.
He's not alone, either. For most of his life, he has been accompanied by bassist David Ranson. The childhood friends have played together in numerous bands. When teamed with Kenneth Blevins, the trio becomes the Goners, better known as John Hiatt's band.
When traveling alone, the trio simply becomes a study in human relations.
"It's great when you know each other so well," Landreth said. "You read each other, you anticipate each other's moves. It's almost like a mental or telepathic connection in some respects. Chemistry like ours is a rare thing."
So, too, are the sounds produced by Landreth's guitar.
"Man, I can still remember when I first heard the bottleneck slide guitar," he said. "It was hypnotic to me. It just pulled me in."
The difference between a slide guitar and a flat-pick guitar is enormous, he said.
"For me, there's more potential to create a vocal quality and a variety of sounds. I mean, I can do things with the slide there's no way I could ever do with just a regular flat-pick."
"That enables me to color my songs because all the chops in the world don't mean anything if you don't have a story to tell."
Showing off licks means little to Landreth. Using the guitar as a soundtrack for the lyrical story is what it's all about.
All of Landreth's heroes were storytellers. Often, when he's not writing, recording or performing, Landreth can be found reading.
"Reading is great," he said. "It opens you up to so many ideas and gives you notions you wouldn't have otherwise. There are so many great writers and so much to draw upon. It's a combination of that and your own life experiences that makes for a great story. You just have to have the antennas up all the time and take it all in."
"The Road We're On," Landreth's sixth CD, is the bluesiest record he's released.
"I've always had one track on each record that was more of a blues-type tune," Landreth said. "I've been wanting to get back more to the blues and the timing just seemed right. It's got more of an edge, less production. It feels more like a live album."
Landreth knows he's flying below the radar of mainstream radio. That's OK with him.
"With the record industry in flux, who knows where we'll all land?" he said. "But one thing I do know, people will always love going out to hear live music. So I figure the best thing I can do is to get out on the road. Besides, we love playing for people. That's where the magic still lies in me. It helps me maintain that little spark I first had when I was a kid."
from the August 26-Sept 1, 2004 issue of the "Reno Gazette-Journal"