Sonny Landreth: Next to Kindred Spirit

Born in Mississippi and raised in Louisiana, Sonny Landreth is revered among guitarists as a true original. The influence of the south is reflected is his guitar playing, singing, and compositions, through growing up with Blues, Zydeco, and Rock music. Through being immersed in various styles Sonny became a sought after session guitarist and has recorded with artists such as Junior Wells, Bonnie Raitt, Jimmy Buffett, John Hiatt, and Mark Knopfler. In Sonny’s latest release From the Reach, he composed songs specifically for the musicians he invited to play on the album. Within the album are collaborations with some of the greatest guitarists in music today, including Eric Clapton, Mark Knopfler, Eric Johnson, Robben Ford, and Vince Gill.

While Sonny’s style remains rooted in the blues, his approach to the guitar is extremely unique. The backbone of most of his playing is the slide, but by adding fretted notes behind the slide he opens up many possibilities sonically. Sonny also possess a highly developed right hand where he uses a thumb pick and fingers for intricate picking, muting, and tapped harmonics. His melodic sense combined with these techniques produces a superb sound on the instrument.

The first video clip features Sonny Landreth sharing the stage with Eric Clapton in Chicago at the Crossroads Guitar Festival in 2007. It captures him singing and trading some extremely tasteful musical ideas with Clapton. The second features a backstage solo performance of his composition Next to Kindred Spirit.

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  1. What tuning do you think he uses?

  2. Hi Chris!

    Sonny Landreth is known for using a variety of tunings. The tuning he will choose (either low or high in tonality) will usually depend on his vocal range. Some tunings require the strings to be tuned UP therefore raising the tonality, others tuned DOWN to lower the tonality. For instrumental songs, tunings can be chosen depending on the tonality desired as they all offer different sounds.

    For the first clip “Hell at Home” Sonny is tuned to an Open-A tuning:

    low to high E A E A C# E

    For the second solo backstage clip he is using an Open-E tuning:

    low to high E B E G# B E

    Sonny also uses these other tunings which are very accommodating to slide playing:

    Open-G D G D G B D

    Open-D D A D F# A D

    All of the above tunings are commonly used for playing slide guitar.
    Hope this helps!

    Chris Finch

  3. Well thanks so much. I’ll have to check them out. Learning new tunings are almost like having to relearn an instrument. All very interesting though.


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