The last time Sonny Landreth released a stripped-down blues trio date recorded in a studio was 2003's The Road We're On in 2003, and his previous album to this was 2012's maximal Elemental Journey, which ranged over blues, jazz, zydeco, and reggae and had ambitious arrangements that included everything from steel drums to strings and winds. Bound by the Blues features his longstanding group (bassist David Ranson and drummer Brian Brignac) and was recorded at his Comoland Studio in Lafayette, Louisiana. It was co-produced by Landreth and Tony Daigle, and includes originals and standards, vocal tunes and instrumental workouts. A raucous version of Robert Johnson's "Walking Blues" opens it with blazing slide guitar. Courtesy of Daigle, it has an enormous (but natural-sounding) drum mix and offers a killer bridge. Landreth reprises Johnson's "Dust My Broom" later and recombines Elmore James' version with hard-strutting Chicago bravado and a Hendrixian flourish. Speaking of James, his "It Hurts Me Too" is also here; it has a roiling, midtempo churn with Landreth's guitar playing extended by his soulful vocals. The title track is an original, with the guitarist on an acoustic National Steel with his electric, bumping, almost funky bassline and martial snare shuffle adding balance and illustrating the Como style. On "The High Side," he offers an excellent modern take on the country-blues. The instrumental "Firebird Blues" is dedicated to the memory of Johnny Winter. Landreth evokes the late guitarist's slow, wrangling, Delta-cum-Texas style in scorching form. But there's a surprise in the bassline which is mixed like a tuba at a New Orleans funeral march. Landreth's version of Skip James' "Cherry Ball Blues," with its strident pace and distorted, wrangling solo, offers an entirely new interpretation. On Big Bill Broonzy's "Key to the Highway," Landreth simultaneously pays tribute to Buddy Guy and Jimmy Reed. "Simcoe Street" is another original instrumental, this time a choogling boogie made for the roadhouse dancefloor. Bound by the Blues is certainly a welcome return for the guitarist and his trio doing what they do best, and well worth the wait. Here, Landreth reaffirms his commitment to the blues as a free-spirited and still vibrant creative form.
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AllMusic Review by Thom Jurek