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This solo acoustic version of “Blues Attack” was recorded on Sept. 30, 1997, during a Baton Rouge Blues Week interview with David Dye for World Café. Engineer extraordinaire Tony Daigle was at the helm at Johnny Palazzotto’s studio.
“This song ended up being the title track for the album recorded in 1980, released in ’81, which sort of bridges my stint with Clifton Chenier and my work with Bayou Rhythm,” Sonny says. “It’s also one of the few tunes I’ve ever written that came to me all at once. I woke up one morning with this song in my head and literally wrote it on the way over to the studio in Crowley.”
“This version is completely stripped down with just vocal and my old National resonator guitar, which gives it more of the Delta vibe,” Sonny explains. “The guitar is tuned to open G [normally D-G-D-G-B-D low to high] but the difference here is I took the sixth string and tuned that sucker all the way down to a low G, an octave below the fifth string. The good news is you get that big low pedal tone. The bad news is it flops around. But it does give an edge that I like for country blues. Of all the incarnations of ‘Blues Attack,’ this is the only one like this on tape.”
4.83 MB, 128Kpbs, MP3
Here are Sonny’s thoughts on this rendition of “Common Law Love” recorded with Steve Conn on accordion and harmony vocals live at KBCO FM:
“I was in Boulder doing E-Town when Steve was the musical director. He was featured on the original ‘Outward Bound’ album version, so we thought it’d be a good idea to record a live duo version for KBCO’s Studio C Sessions. This is in E tuning, and it’s a treat to hear the accordion in this key. Most Cajun and zydeco songs are in G and C. We don’t hear an accordion in E very often down here in Louisiana. This is basically a 1-4-5 song. The slide is at the 12th fret, and you’re able to fret behind it to get the main figure. You’re hearing all six strings so it’s a bigger sound.”
4 MB, 128Kpbs, MP3
Here are Sonny’s thoughts on “Road a Plenty:
“I’ve always liked writing variations on a theme. One idea can spark a cycle of songs. ‘Road a Plenty’ came up when I was writing ‘Spider-Gris,’ one of the instrumentals on ‘Levee Town.’ Both songs use some of the same chordal voicings. When an idea is good enough, it can stretch through many incarnations. I really improvised the solo on this one – it’s always better to capture the moment and not think too much.”
“The key figure for the song involves fretting the first and second strings on the third fret and bouncing the slide (on the little finger) off the second through fifth strings at the fifth fret. It’s sort of a reversed version of “Spider-Gris,” starting high and going low instead of the other way around.”
“This was recorded at my home for a benefit CD, and it’s in G Spanish tuning. I played my ’66 Strat through an MXR Dyna Comp to The Plex (Richard Beck’s version of the Echoplex) to a Line 6 POD to an API mic pre and eq to tape.”
2.9 MB, 128Kpbs, MP3
Here are Sonny’s thoughts on this rendition of “Broken Hearted Road” recorded for a World Café remote on Sept. 30, 1997:
“This solo acoustic version was recorded at Johnny Palazzotto’s studio in Baton Rouge with engineer extraordinaire Tony Daigle as part of an interview with David Dye for World Café. It’s stripped down with just vocal and my old National resonator guitar, which gives it more of a Delta vibe.”
“At the time, the song was developing and I had been playing it electrified with the band in a version more reminiscent of what Jazz Fest’s Quint Davis once called ‘Cajun Cream.’ The version here is the antithesis of that.”
“I always liked the technique of the bottleneck slide line following the vocal in unison. It gives it a more powerful, haunting quality – it’s a throwback to the Delta players. Using Dm tuning, the thumb pedals the sixth string while the melody is picked out with the bottleneck on the first and second strings using the second and third fingers of the right hand.”
4 MB, 128Kpbs, MP3
“Congo Square” is one of Sonny’s best-known songs, and his arrangement has evolved a bit over the years. “Congo Square” can be heard in a flatpicked, standard-tuning version on the “Down in Louisiana” CD and in an open-tuned slide rendition on the “South of I-10” CD.
The song was written in the key of D minor, and the slide (and current stage) version of “Congo Square” uses a D minor tuning (D-A-D-F-A-D, low to high). This tuning is also used for the live version of “Broken Hearted Road.” Though it’s only slightly different from the more commonly used open D major (you just drop the F# down to F to make the tuning minor), D minor tuning opens up a whole new range of musical possibilities.
“Because of the slacker tension, D minor tuning gives you an elasticity to touch that you can really feel and hear in the overall sound,” Sonny says. “Bluesy with a powerful low end, it has an atmospheric mojo and a spooky vibe I really like. Think Elmore James in a dark mood.”
Audio clips of both versions of “Congo Square” can be found in the Discography section. The clip for the “South of I-10” version, in fact, features Mark Knopfler’s guitar solo.
version 1, 1 MB, 128Kpbs, MP3
version 2, 1.1 MB, 128Kpbs, MP3
This tune dates back to ‘74 or ‘75 and was a staple of gigs at the Red Dog Saloon and Mother’s Mantle in Lafayette, Sonny reports. Our version is taken from “The Tulsa Sampler” LP and comes to us courtesy of Tom Powell.
It seems Sonny and Dave headed up to Oklahoma to cut some tracks with some of Eric Clapton’s bandmates (two band selections were featured alongside this cut), and this was the sole solo track (with overdubbing). “This was one of those 24-hour sessions that you learn not to do,” Sonny says with a laugh. “It really burns you out. I remember the door opening and the sun blasting in, with Dave coming back from a decent night’s sleep at the hotel. I must’ve looked awful, ‘cause he grabbed the keys to my car and drove us all the way back to Louisiana.” Still, Sonny says, he’s always been happy with the way this all-acoustic track turned out. “I was inspired by my father. It reminds me of how he used to sing and rock me to sleep when I was a little kid.”
3.7 MB, 128Kpbs, MP3
By popular request, we’ve posted the rare acoustic version of the electric “South of I-10” instrumental that opens this web site. Dave, Sonny and drummer Mike Organ laid down basic tracks in New York, and Steve Conn overdubbed accordion and Hammond B-3 parts with Sonny’s co-producer R.S. Field in Nashville. “We were on the road and decided to do this acoustic version of the song, which I like doing, because there’s always a flip side to a song, it just gives it a whole different vibe,” Sonny reports. He played his Martin D-28 on the cut, and says it offers a taste of the direction a future all-acoustic album might take.
3.4 MB, 128Kpbs, MP3
This promo-only version was tracked November 24, 1992 at Amsterdam’s Club Paradiso. This rarity features Goners Dave Ranson on bass and Kenneth Blevins on drums plus longtime Sonny Landreth accomplice Steve Conn on accordion and background vocals and was originally issued on the four-song Zoo/Praxis “South of I-10” promo disc “Exit 103A.”
4.7 MB, 128Kpbs, MP3
This live, late night jam is featured on the benefit CD “Medicine Show, Vol. 1: Live at Grant Street Dancehall.” To order, call the Acadiana Arts Council at 337-233-7060.
5.9 MB, 128Kbps, MP3