Carl “Sonny” Leyland

The Carl Sonny Leyland Trio Meets Nathan James and Ben Hernandez

515 Miles – Don’t Know What You Did – Take a Girl Like You – Sweet Little Woman – Hooray Hooray (These Women is Killing Me) – City Blues – Early Tuesday Mornin’ – Run Me Ragged – Worn Out Wagon – Make Your Own Mind – Wonderful Time – Black Rattler – One Thing I Don’t Understand – Oh Red – Sending Up My Timber – The Prisoner’s Song – Mystery Train – Nightmare Blues – Jumpin at The Jamboree

The Carl Sonny Leyland Trio Meets Nathan James and Ben Hernandez

This must be one of the two best blues albums I’ve heard in ages (the other being CW Stoneking’s King Hokum). The master of blues, jazz, and boogie-woogie piano and his always perfect and tight rhythm section (Hal Smith on drums and Marty Eggers on bass) join forces with Ben Hernandez and Nathan James for a record that sounds like a party.

They play blues from the late 30s to the early 50s, when Delta blues was no longer the primary genre, but when Chicago blues had not yet replaced everything. A vibrant brand of blues that didn’t hesitate to incorporate elements of jazz, like Leyland’s piano and James’ guitar. It reminds us of Tampa Red, Jazz Gillum, Big Bill Broonzy, Sonny Terry and Brownie McGhee, or Sonny Boy Williamson (the first). Half of the songs are written by Leyland, James, or Hernandez (and the three of them sing, too), and they are so well crafted you can’t tell which ones are from the 40s and which come from the 21st century until you read the credits.

They achieve this authentic sound without any recording tricks, like “let’s use the poorest microphone we have to sound vintage.” The authentic sound simply comes from the players, and the bright recording allows us to hear each solo and instrument clearly.


The Carl Sonny Leyland Trio – Wild Piano

Komodo Records KR1005
Music Hall Stomp – My Old Man – Stalking The Lion – Blowing Bubbles Boogie – Almond Joys – Yancey On State Street – Jimtown Blues – Last Of The Sawmill Boogie – Green Diamond Boogie – Blues For Bill Field – Possom & Taters – Mr Freddy Blues – If I Had My Way – Tripling The Bass – Body & Soul – Baby Won’t You Please Come Home – Early Hours – Witches Kitchen – The Lonesome Road – Boogie Woogie Stomp

Carl is a well-known musician who appeals to fans of various music genres such as blues, boogie, rockabilly, western swing, and jazz. He has recently released his latest solo album, the first since “Gin Mill Jazz” four years ago. Recorded at The Old Town Music Hall, this album features Carl alone with his piano, capturing the perfect sound for this style of music. Half of the songs on the album are Carl’s original compositions, paying homage to old-time piano masters like Jimmy Yancey and Willie “The Lion” Smith. The album also includes a new, faster rendition of Carl’s impressive piece “Witches’ Kitchen,” as well as classic tunes like “Body & Soul” and “Baby Won’t You Please Come Home.” Not only is Carl an amazing piano player, but he also showcases his vocal talent on this album. Additionally, the album features “Boogie Woogie Stomp” by Albert Ammons and “Possom & Taters,” a ragtime tune from the 1900s. The liner notes hint at the possibility of a volume 2, as this CD represents only half of the recording session, leaving the listener eager for more.


The Carl Sonny Leyland Trio – Studio Session

Komodo Records 1002
Margie – Cabbage Greens – One Sweet Letter From You – Memphis Blues – B Flat Boogie – Good Gravy Rag – St. Louis Blues – Body & Soul – My Old Kentucky Home – Argyle Avenue Breakdown – Slow Blues – Blame It On The Blues – Kansas City Southern – Two Key Boogie – Swipesy Cakewalk – Come Day & Go Day – Pancake Charlie – Final Cut Boogie.

carl leyland trio studio session

If you enjoyed the live album, there’s no reason not to like the studio one. The album consists of eighteen tracks, with almost half of them credited to Carl. This is a strong point because Carl is a talented songwriter and musician. The CD opens with a fantastic instrumental rendition of “Margie,” followed by a blues track “Cabbage Greens” (by Champion Jack Dupree and Big Bill Bronzy). The album also pays homage to WC Handy, the Father of the Blues, with covers of “Memphis Blue” and “St. Louis Blues” (featuring some Latin beats). While these covers are great, the real strength of the album lies in Carl’s original songs, especially the final track, aptly named “Final Cut Boogie.” Eggers and Smith also shine on this album. I’ve heard that a third album with this lineup has been released, and I’m looking forward to listening to it.


The Carl Sonny Leyland Trio – Broadway Boogie

Komodo Records 1001
47th Street Jive – Farrish Street Jive Don’t Lie To Me – Swanee River Boogie – Song of the Wanderer – Kansas City – Flying Crow Blues – Rocking the House – Pipeliner’s Blues – Stack o’Lee – Shreveport Fairwell – Spo-Dee-o-Dee – Yearning – Black Hearted Woman – Broadway Boogie – Old Fashion Love

carl sonny leyland trio

Following Carl Leyland’s career can be a bit challenging because he has recorded many albums on various labels from different countries: England (No Hit), Finland (Goofin’), France (Honky Tonk), and the USA (Piano Joys, Hightone). His latest album is on his bassist’s own Komodo Records. The first one is a great live album, very well recorded. Even though I was impressed by his rhythm section on Farrish Street Jive (Kevin Smith on bass and Shaun Young on drums), I must admit that this one blew my mind. “Veteran” Hal Smith is everything someone can ask for from a swing drummer, and his team, along with bassist Marty Eggers, is quite effective. As I’m not a boogie-woogie specialist (although I like it), I won’t go into stylistic remarks and comments. This album mainly consists of instrumentals, a few vocals (Don’t Lie to Me, Kansas City, and a superb rendition of Stack O’Lee).


Carl “Sonny” Leyland – Hot Rhythm Blue Love

Rock-A-Billy R 113
Hot Rhythm, Blue Love – Beat Up Ford /Air Conditioner Blues

This superb single from Carl Sonny Leyland was recorded in 1989 for Rock-A-Billy Records, Willie Lewis’ label. Leyland is accompanied by Joey Torres (drums) and Brad Smith (double bass).
Hot Rhythm Blue Love is a different version from the one that appears on I Like Boogie Woogie. While the album version had a country blues touch, this one is a raw Rock’ n’ Roll that Jerry Lee Lewis would not have denied during his Sun period.
Beat Up Ford is just as Rock’ n’ Roll but closer to Chuck Berry, somewhere between Maybelline and You Can’t Catch Me with a great dose of Johnny Johnson in it. Great art.
As its name suggests, Air Conditioner Blues is a superb blues that lasts over four minutes and leaves Leyland’s subtle pianistic touch plenty of room to expand.


carlleyland_ilikebwCarl “Sonny” Leyland – I Like Boogie Woogie

On The Hill

Carl “Sonny” Leyland likes BoogieWoogie and plays it like no one else today, but not only, this is what this cd proves. It features the many sides of the english piano player : hillbilly, rockabilly, rural and city blues, and of course some boogie-woogie too.
Ten of the tracks included here have been previously released on Willie Lewis’ Rock-A-Billy records, which proves that Leyland is a serious cat about his music.
You’ll find Leyland playing harmonica, guitar and piano. The other musicians listed are Walter Leyland (Carl’s father), Ashley Kingman, Joey Torres, and some tracks are from the Krewmen, when they played the meanest rocking blues you could hear in 1985, before Carl left and their psychobilly era.
Historical (you’ll find some of Carl’s early sides) and musical value.


Carl “Sonny” Leyland – From Boogie to Rock’n’Roll

Honky Tonk Productions HT104 [1995]
Pinetop’s Boogie Woogie – Cat And Mouse Boogie – The Axe Is Falling – New Yancey Stomp – Back To The Boogie – Beat Me Daddy Eight To The Bar – Jook It Jook It – End Of The Road – Rock And Roll Ruby – Gulf Stream Special – Night Time Is The Right Time – Tuesday Struggle – Drinkin’ Wine Spodee-Odee – Pig Foot Pete – Jimmy’s Stuff – Brown Skin Girls – Couscous Boogie – Chattanoogie – What’d I Say

The name of this album says it all. Leyland recorded this platter in France on a grand Steinway, either alone or with Matt Radford on bass and Brian Nevill on drums. He plays classics from the boogie-woogie era (Pinetop’s Boogie Woogie, Pig Foot Pete), Rock’n’roll (Jerry Lee Lewis’ End of the Road, Drinkin’ Wine Spodee-Odee, Rock’ n’ Roll Ruby) with plenty of blues in between (Big Bill Broonzy’s Brown Skin Girls, Leyland’s the Axe is Falling.) Ray Charles’ What’d I Say ends the selection. Among the 19 tracks, seven are Leyland originals that proudly stand near the classics.

Fred “Virgil” Turgis

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