KENNY WAYNE SHEPHERD BAND - The Traveler (Album)
Immortally tagged as a ‘young blues guitar player’, KENNY WAYNE SHEPHERD is starting to outgrow his early description, as he matures into his forties. His music has also changed from the traditional blues in the early days when he shared a stage with Bryan Lee at just thirteen years old, to a much broader spectrum of blues rock with a touch of soul.
On Shepherds’ latest album, ‘The Traveler’, his guitar work is, as expected, the main feature that grabs the listeners attention, but it’s quality, not quantity, as Shepherd chooses the notes that hit the target, rather than firing a barrage hoping a few hit home. Every song on the album has a story or a message behind it that can make our passage through life just a little smoother if we heed the words.
‘The Traveler’ opens with a feel good rocking track, ‘Woman Like You’, guaranteed to put a smile on your face, and shake the cobwebs off your air guitar, as Shepherd strolls through a laid-back solo that impresses the listener without saturating the senses. Which should come first in a musician’s life, the perfect song, or the woman worth writing a song about?
With a back beat reminiscent of a train, and a guitar solo with more in common with Lynyrd Skynyrd than BB King, ‘Long Time Running’ demonstrates the evolution of the blues into country/rock, and the blurring of the borders that have separated them in the past. Whereas following track ‘I Want You’ is back to the classic old-time blues, with heavy influence from Stevie Ray Vaughn, one of Shepard’s early mentors, and drummer Layton’s previous band mates.
‘Tailwind’ is the track that generated the album title, an acoustic melody about travelling and touring, which most musicians must accept in order to climb the ladder of success, and to keep in touch their audience.
The next track, ‘Gravity’ is a slow burner with several subtle messages. You can’t fight ‘Gravity’, so sometimes you just have to accept it, dive in, and trust the person waiting to catch you!
Kenny actually steps up to the mic for the chorus of ‘We All Right’ and shows he’s not just all fingers and frets. Stephen Stills from Shepherd’s side project ‘The Rides’ encouraged him to take on more vocal responsibilities alongside regular singer Noah Hunt, and it’s not a challenge he shies away from.
Crossing boundaries again, not only in styles, but also geography, ‘Take It On Home’ is a Southern rock ballad about travelling back home to family and familiar territory. And Shepherd is back on the Strat, making the guitar sing with a solo that Slash would be proud of.
Having already performed ‘Mr Soul’ live at an autism benefit show with Neil Young and Stephen Stills, Shepherd wanted to include the track on the album as a tribute to that live experience. It’s a powerful, fast, rocking cover of Buffalo Springfield’s 1967 hit, written by Young following his suspected epileptic fit on stage, and subsequent stay in hospital.
Slowing down after the frantic ‘Mr Soul’, a far more mellow ‘Better With Time’ brings the brass section into this summertime, cruising-with-the-top-down classic.
Again, following on from a live performance, this time for Joe Walsh, Shepherd wanted to include his version of ‘Turn To Stone’ as the final track on the album. Recorded as a live take in the studio, it comes across raw and powerful, and allows Shepherd to capture some of that live energy as he reminds us why he is a multi-award winning musician.
‘The Traveler’ is due out on Friday 31st May and will be followed up with a European tour, so don’t miss your chance to see or hear this rare artist, who plays for his listeners, not just for himself.
1. Woman Like You
2. Long Time Running
3. I Want You
6. We All Alright
7. Take It On Home
8. Mr Soul
9. Better With Time
10. Turn To Stone
Kenny Wayne Shepherd – Guitars / Vocals
Noah Hunt – Vocals
Chris Layton – Drums
Bass – Kevin McCormick
Keyboards – Jim McGorman and Joe Krown