Sonny Landreth pays tribute to old friend Johnny Winter in Vancouver

photo by the Newt

By Steve Newton

Louisiana slide-guitar ace Sonny Landreth played Vancouver last night, and if you’re a fan of bluesy, southern-style bottleneck, I hope you didn’t miss it. The player Eric Clapton calls first when he needs world-class slide did not disappoint–especially when he dedicated a tune to his old friend Johnny Winter.

The spirit of Winter flowed through the Rio Theatre when Landreth performed “Firebird Blues”, a tune off his 2015 Bound By the Blues album. Being a huge Winter fan myself, I reveled in Sonny’s tribute to the Texas guitar great, who passed away in 2014 at the age of 70.

“He’s right up there with Eric [Clapton] and Jeff [Beck] and all them,” Landreth told me a few years back, “because what he did over here paralleled what they were doin’ in their part of the world. He always stayed true to his roots, and that’s what we wanted to capture, some of that, on that track.”

Landreth didn’t need to pull out a Gibson Firebird to make the musical connection to JW, his trusty sunburst Strat worked just fine to recreate the punchy, badass vibe Winter was known for. “Firebird Blues” was surely a highlight of Landreth’s set, but what went over best was the zydeco-tinged “Back to Bayou Teche”, a rocker from the 1992 Outward Bound album that drew several audience members to the front of the stage, shakin’ what they got.

The show had kicked off with a short acoustic set that saw Landreth wielding a blue dobro on Big Bill Broonzy’s “Key to the Highway”, and before that an impressive opening set by Robert Connely Farr, the local Mississippi transplant who’s been making waves in the Vancouver music scene with his stellar album Dirty South Blues. His trio delivers a slinky, raw, backwoods blues noise with authentic southern accents. Do yourself a favour and check him out some time.

photo by the Newt

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