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Sonny Landreth

I first heard Sonny Landreth when he was playing behind John Hiatt. The Goners, of which Landreth is a member, have logged a lot of road time as Hiatt’s backup band. Landreth is a hired gun, a sideman whose abilities are well known to Hiatt’s fans and fans of slide guitar in general. His underground popularity earned him a solo spot in Hiatt’s set. When it came time, Landreth delivered what is for him the usual: a stunning algorithm of fingerings coupled with slide dexterity.

There is something fundamental in the sound of a simple bar chord made with slide guitar in open tuning that speaks to a listener at the chromosomal level. Slide guitar became ingrained in American listening culture during the 1920s as part of the blues written along the Mississippi Delta. Performers used implements such as the back of a knife blade or the neck of a broken glass bottle to slide over the frets of a guitar. The technique produced a jittery, unstable sound that was often used to paraphrase the singer. By the 1940s a guitarist named Elmore James was playing molten, fizzing solos through his overburdened amplifier that became the sound of slide guitar today. After that, slide no longer took a supporting role. Duane Allman may get the credit for introducing slide to rock, but Johnny Winter, the guitar slinger from Texas, understood better than anyone the crude sexual urgency that slide guitar could invoke.

Sonny Landreth, 57, from Louisiana, actually improved on what everyone else was doing when he discovered that he could finger ahead of the slide — meaning that he could add extra notes where none had thought possible. Landreth has continued to reinvent what began as a simple porch music nearly a century ago.

SONNY LANDRETH, Anthology, Friday, May 30, and Saturday, May 31, 7:30 and 9 p.m. 619-595-0300. $15 to $35.

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I first heard Sonny Landreth when he was playing behind John Hiatt. The Goners, of which Landreth is a member, have logged a lot of road time as Hiatt’s backup band. Landreth is a hired gun, a sideman whose abilities are well known to Hiatt’s fans and fans of slide guitar in general. His underground popularity earned him a solo spot in Hiatt’s set. When it came time, Landreth delivered what is for him the usual: a stunning algorithm of fingerings coupled with slide dexterity.

There is something fundamental in the sound of a simple bar chord made with slide guitar in open tuning that speaks to a listener at the chromosomal level. Slide guitar became ingrained in American listening culture during the 1920s as part of the blues written along the Mississippi Delta. Performers used implements such as the back of a knife blade or the neck of a broken glass bottle to slide over the frets of a guitar. The technique produced a jittery, unstable sound that was often used to paraphrase the singer. By the 1940s a guitarist named Elmore James was playing molten, fizzing solos through his overburdened amplifier that became the sound of slide guitar today. After that, slide no longer took a supporting role. Duane Allman may get the credit for introducing slide to rock, but Johnny Winter, the guitar slinger from Texas, understood better than anyone the crude sexual urgency that slide guitar could invoke.

Sonny Landreth, 57, from Louisiana, actually improved on what everyone else was doing when he discovered that he could finger ahead of the slide — meaning that he could add extra notes where none had thought possible. Landreth has continued to reinvent what began as a simple porch music nearly a century ago.

SONNY LANDRETH, Anthology, Friday, May 30, and Saturday, May 31, 7:30 and 9 p.m. 619-595-0300. $15 to $35.

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4S Ranch Allied Gardens Alpine Baja Balboa Park Bankers Hill Barrio Logan Bay Ho Bay Park Black Mountain Ranch Blossom Valley Bonita Bonsall Borrego Springs Boulevard Campo Cardiff-by-the-Sea Carlsbad Carmel Mountain Carmel Valley Chollas View Chula Vista City College City Heights Clairemont College Area Coronado CSU San Marcos Cuyamaca College Del Cerro Del Mar Descanso Downtown San Diego Eastlake East Village El Cajon Emerald Hills Encanto Encinitas Escondido Fallbrook Fletcher Hills Golden Hill Grant Hill Grantville Grossmont College Guatay Harbor Island Hillcrest Imperial Beach Imperial Valley Jacumba Jamacha-Lomita Jamul Julian Kearny Mesa Kensington La Jolla Lakeside La Mesa Lemon Grove Leucadia Liberty Station Lincoln Acres Lincoln Park Linda Vista Little Italy Logan Heights Mesa College Midway District MiraCosta College Miramar Miramar College Mira Mesa Mission Beach Mission Hills Mission Valley Mountain View Mount Hope Mount Laguna National City Nestor Normal Heights North Park Oak Park Ocean Beach Oceanside Old Town Otay Mesa Pacific Beach Pala Palomar College Palomar Mountain Paradise Hills Pauma Valley Pine Valley Point Loma Point Loma Nazarene Potrero Poway Rainbow Ramona Rancho Bernardo Rancho Penasquitos Rancho San Diego Rancho Santa Fe Rolando San Carlos San Marcos San Onofre Santa Ysabel Santee San Ysidro Scripps Ranch SDSU Serra Mesa Shelltown Shelter Island Sherman Heights Skyline Solana Beach Sorrento Valley Southcrest South Park Southwestern College Spring Valley Stockton Talmadge Temecula Tierrasanta Tijuana UCSD University City University Heights USD Valencia Park Valley Center Vista Warner Springs
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