Sonny Landreth Band and Eugene Edwards. At the Lobero Theatre,
Saturday, November 18.

Reviewed by Charles Donelan

Sonny-4.jpgSubscribers to Sings Like Hell expect
nothing less than the best from programmer Peggy Jones, and she
delivered with this double bill, offering two underground
sensations at different but complementary stages of their
respective careers. Eugene Edwards is no kid, but his quirky power
pop (think Alex Chilton or, if you want to get all Jack Black in
High Fidelity about it, Brinsley Schwarz) is as expressive of youth
as anything since the heyday of “What I Like About You.” Edwards
and rhythm guitarist John Hoskinson showed a mastery of the twin
guitar approach and stop-time theatrics on numbers such as the
title track from Edwards’s 2005 album My Favorite Revolution.

While his onstage shtick can become silly at times — a medley of
guitar effects trotted out as an encore didn’t entirely
work — Edwards earned the two-legged classic rock leap in the air
he gave to celebrate the end of his set, and the audience loved

Sonny Landreth has an impeccable pedigree as a sideman, having
supported John Hiatt and Jimmy Buffett, among many others, in the
course of his career. His style of electric slide guitar, honed in
the Louisiana bayous backing zydeco pioneer Clifton Chenier,
combines conventional slide technique with several sneaky moves you
won’t see elsewhere. At times Landreth appears to be fingering the
strings behind his slide, imparting an eerie doubleness to his
playing and achieving a big, dirty blues sound that’s also
remarkably sharp and clear — think Junior Brown meets ZZ Top. The
Landreth band is a trio and by the end of the first number no one
within earshot would want it any other way. On songs like “Broken
Hearted Road” Landreth explores a world of shadings and moods
without ever breaking the hypnotic syncopation of the tune’s swamp
blues backbeat.

As a singer Landreth is less distinctive, but this is like
saying Fred Astaire was not as good a singer as he was a dancer;
it’s true enough, but boy are you missing the point. Those who
stuck it out to the end witnessed one of the most consummate
displays of guitar virtuosity since — well, since three weeks ago
when Leo Kottke played the Lobero. But, there you have it; it’s
been a season of plenty this fall for Santa Barbara music fans, and
the Lobero has been its locus.


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