Like some mythic blues man from a bygone era, Eric Sardinas emerged on the Southern California blues scene in the early 90s and proceeded to alter the musical landscape. Club-goers and critics raved about the new kid with the virtuosic slide guitar style, raspy vocals and diesel fueled blues-rock songs. With the 1999 release of Sardinas' debut CD Treat Me Right, on Evidence Music, music lovers worldwide joined the hallelujah chorus. Featuring guest appearances by Howlin' Wolf sideman Hubert Sumlin and blues-rock pioneer Johnny Winter, Treat Me Right garnered effusive praise. The Los Angeles Times wrote that Sardinas "fingerpicks his guitar into a frenzy," while Guitarist Magazine (U.K.) praised the guitarist's "jaw-dropping showmanship." Country-blues stalwart John Hammond hailed Sardinas as "another infusion of life into the blues." BAM Magazine was downright unequivocal. To wit: "(Sardinas performs) hard rock slide like you've never seen or heard."
Now, with the release of Devils Train, his second disc for Evidence Music, Eric Sardinas raises the musical stakes even higher. The disc features 11 original songs, as well as a rendition of Elmore James' "My Kind Of Woman" and a bravura interpretation of Honeyboy Edwards' "Gamblin' Man Blues. Co-produced by Sardinas and Neil Citron, Devil's Train triumphantly reconciles Mississippi Delta country blues, Chicago-style r&b, Motor City boogie and smoky Southern rock. Performing on an electrified "resonator" acoustic guitar expressly modified to his specifications, Sardinas demonstrates his acclaimed six-string technique on boogified original songs such as Aggravatin' Pappa, Down to Whiskey and Killin' Time Blues. On the astounding Sidewinder, he sculpts traditional blues, southern rock and funk into an instrumental of spiraling majesty.
But as one listen to his new CD will attest, Sardinas guitar pyrotechnics never come at the expense of substance. Indeed, Devil's Train is a soulful album that replicates the raucous vibe of a backwater juke joint. "The essence of traditional blues is clearly evident on this record, but it's still true to who I am," says Sardinas, whose contemporary influences include Hendrix, Page and Clapton. "It's an aggressive record, but it's from the heart. I have the utmost respect for the traditional blues, and no matter how hard the music gets you can always hear the key ingredients of blues in these tracks."
Yet for all its forward-thinking adventurism, Devil's Train is also a reverent recording steeped in the musical traditions of the American south. Sardinas' reading of Elmore James' My Kind Of Woman serves as a loving homage to the late songwriter and slide guitarist, while the duet with Honeyboy Edwards on Edwards' own Gamblin' Man Blues is infused with historical significance. "I really feel fortunate to be performing now because this is a pivotal time period in blues history," Sardinas says. "The music is going full circle and the great traditional players are disappearing fast. I chose to record My Kind of Woman because Elmore James is a major contributor to the Chicago sound and he's definitely part of who I am as a player. Singing with Honeyboy means a lot to me because he's probably the last surviving link to Robert Johnson and the country blues pioneers."
From the outset, traditional blues played a crucial role in Sardinas' musical evolution. Born in Fort Lauderdale, Fla. in 1970, Sardinas picked up guitar at age six and immediately gravitated toward vintage recordings by Delta bluesmen Charlie Patton, Bukka White, Big Bill Broonzy, Elmore James and Muddy Waters. "The rawest, most emotional music is what sparked my excitement for the blues," Eric says. "I still listen to music from the 20s and 30s on a daily basis. That's where it all began."
A born troubadour, Sardinas moved frequently around the country before finally settling in Los Angeles in 1990. He performed acoustic guitar on street corners until he met bassist Paul Loranger at a jam session. Striking up a musical partnership, the duo and a drummer began their ascent on the Southern California blues scene. The trio played nearly 300 shows a year, a work ethic that quickly established Sardinas as one of the busiest performers in the Los Angeles region. The band frequently outdrew more "established" national acts and became regular attractions at BB Kings, the House of Blues, Blue Cafe, The Mint and The Roxy. Even before signing with Philadelphia-based Evidence Music, Sardinas and the bands musical stature won them a multitude of prestigious instrument and equipment endorsement deals from companies anticipating future success. These instrument manufacturers sent the band to perform showcase concerts in the U.S. and Europe.
Since the release of his 1999 debut CD Treat Me Right, Sardinas and his band have toured throughout the United States, Europe, Australia and Asia. Devil's Train is an accurately titled masterwork that showcases Sardinas locomotive energy and momentum.
"This record explores everything I've ever learned, but at the same time it uses the blues as a jumping-off point to go deeper," Sardinas states. "Blues is such a simple music that if you're not being honest, you'll be revealed. That's the statement I want to make with my music. It's not just about being a great player; it's about being true to yourself."