Black Top Run
Provogue/Mascot Label Group
Slide guitar master and Louisiana Cajun bluesman Sonny Landreth’s latest release, Black Top Run, is a prime example of musicianship at its finest. Landreth’s understated, fluent fretwork combined with his subtle ability to captivate a listener has ranked him among some of his peers as one of the greatest living guitar players. He has performed at five of Eric Clapton’s Crossroads Guitar Festivals, and Clapton himself stated that Landreth is “probably the most underestimated musician on the planet and is probably one of the most advanced.” Dubbed “the King of Slydeco” and inspired by such varied artists as Robert Johnson, Elmore James, Mississippi John Hurt, Miles Davis, John Coltrane, Scotty Moore, Wes Montgomery, Chet Atkins, Mike Bloomfield, B.B. King, Jimi Hendrix, and most profoundly, Clifton Chenier, Landreth proceeded to take these influences and generate his own unique style of tasteful swamp blues. Co-produced by Landreth, Tony Daigle and R.S. Field, the ten-song record (including four instrumentals) features eight tracks penned by Landreth and two by Steve Conn, who also plays keys on the album. Additional musicians include David Ranson on bass, Brian Brignac on drums/percussion and Mike Burch handling drums on one track.
The title track kicks off the record and Landreth’s simmering guitar immediately places you out on the open road along for the ride.
I’m headed down the road between all I left/and whatever comes next I’m headed down the road/On a blacktop run into the sun
Following the opener with the groovy, drum-driven instrumental, “Lover Dance With Me,” you can really hear the Mark Knopfler influence in Landreth’s graceful guitar work, the two having collaborated in the past.
With gritty slide, prominent accordion and country leanings, “Mule” is a fun, upbeat track about two stubborn people in a relationship, while the ultra bluesy “Groovy Goddess” is a song I could hear Joe Bonamassa tackle with Reese Wynans on keys. Conn’s keyboard work is the ultimate complement to Landreth’s heavy blues riffs and the combination is just spectacular. This is a real highlight and classic blues fans will dig it for sure.
Switching gears in just the right spot with the darker breakup song, “Somebody Gotta Make A Move” (one of the two tracks written by Conn), Landreth adds another dimension to his sound. He dives right back in, however, with the hard-driving rocker, “Beyond Borders,” another instrumental with a progressive late ’60s/early ’70s vibe.
“Don’t Ask Me” (the other Conn composition) offers a winning combo of swampy Bayou and delta blues with heavy accordion and pristine slide. Landreth takes you right to the edge of the river he is singing about in this catchy song.
“The Wilds of Wonder” is another blues rocker with an environmental commentary, while the instrumental “Many Worlds” has an ethereal, Eric Johnson quality to it – Johnson being another guitarist with whom Landreth has worked.
Wrapping up with “Something Grand,” a totally understated song of contrition with beautiful guitar and poignant lyrics, Landreth chooses the perfect closer. He is simply asking for forgiveness. Let a tender mercy become something grand. It is a powerful song with an even more powerful message. The subtle fade-out at the end is vintage Landreth – nothing over the top, just the end.
Sonny Landreth is the guitarist that most every player on the planet can only aspire to become. This record is some of his best work to date as he proves that he can reinvent himself, yet again, and a record just doesn’t get much better than this. At a time when we all can use some inspirational music, I highly recommend this record. It will take you to your place of peace. I guarantee it.