By Andy Ellis
Dressed in a crushed-velvet suit and wearing a Stetson, Eric Sardinas spins on his boot heels and sends his long, glistening braids twirling in the colored stage lights. As he lashes the strings of his battered Washburn acoustic-electric resonator with his brass slide, the audience at B.B. King’s Blues Club whoops its approval. Last night, they watched King celebrate his 78th birthday—and the gala opening of his new Nashville venue—with an evening of soulful classics. Backed by a nine-piece band, and joined by ace pickers Steve Cropper, Larry Carlton, Lee Roy Parnell, and Vince Gill, King took the crowd “way, way back” to the dawn of electric blues. But tonight, blues lovers young and old have gathered to witness another side of this music’s ongoing evolution, as Sardinas drags timeless Delta riffs through the blast furnace of amped-up rock and roll.
It’s an amazing sight. Armed exclusively with a twangy 6-string resonator—an instrument most audience members associate with the likes of Son House—and accompanied by a pumping drums-and-bass rhythm section, the lanky, tattooed, 6'2" showman delivers a fast-paced set of adrenaline-drenched blues. But because Sardinas cranks through a Rivera half-stack and displays a penchant for crunchy, feedback-laced tones, his wicked solos evoke Jimi Hendrix and Duane Allman, even as they pay homage to Charley Patton and Elmore James.
An hour before showtime, the soft-spoken Sardinas sat with GP, sharing his techniques and demonstrating the slide riffs he used on his latest album, Black Pearls [Favored Nations]. Produced and mixed by the legendary Eddie Kramer, the disc is packed with taut grooves and snarling resonator tones.