7 April 1998 was the first time I played a Kenny Wayne Shepherd track on my radio show in the UK and 2 weeks later "Blue On Black" was topping the Billboard charts in America. So to say I am a fan would be an understatement but I have always included his tracks in my shows over the years. Tonight will be the second time I will see him, with the last time being 15 years ago in London.
But more about that in a moment.
The main support on this tour has been from the Texas born troubadour Jarrod Dickenson and his Irish born wife Claire. The simple one man and his guitar setup allows Jarrod to tell his tales. Switching between an acoustic and electric guitar his songs of life, love, and political disillusionment takes the listener on a emotional filled journey.
30 minutes later and you felt like it couldn't end but sadly it does. Highlight was the heartfelt duet with Claire on "You Heart Belongs To Me" from the 2017 Decca released album "Ready The Horses". Current EP " Under A Texas Sky" is currently available across Europe.
The future is looking bright as the whiskey drenched soul of this troubadour knows no bounds and I will be waiting on the next full album.
So a 30 minute change over allowed me to get a couple of drinks and a cigarette in and meet up with some folks I hadn't seen in awhile. Then the intro music and introduction hits and the Kenny Wayne Shepherd Band hit in full force with "Woman Like You" the lead single from the recently released album "The Traveler ". The next 60 mins is a guitar masterclass which highlighted the exceptional ability of Kenny.
Years ago B.B King was asked about his playing to which he commented about finding the sweet spot. As I have seen and reviewed and interviewed many great guitarists over the years and I believe B.B's statement but also know it has lot to do with that touch and feel. Knowing when to let it RIP and when to be subtle. Kenny wether it is playing his own tracks or covering tracks like the Elmore James standard "Talk To Me" has that ability. However, what enhances Kenny are the players who record and tour with him.
Keyboardist Joe Krown has a nice little set up on the right hand side of the stage and I like that a Hammond B-3 sound is filling my ears. Again the inclusion of this player in the band adds a dimension to Kenny's playing and arrangements. However, Kenny is very good at stepping back on the stage and letting Joe shine on his solos.
Now let's talk about a rhythm section which consists of bassist Scott Nelson and Double Trouble drummer Chris Layton. This is a dream match up as Scott Nelson has played with a who's who of Blues artists over the last 10 years. He is almost a statue for most of the set but that was to allow his fingers to do the talking on the bass strings form boogie to ballads, this guy is phenominal and explains why he is in such demand. Paired with Chris 'Whipper' Layton of Double Trouble fame who the last time I saw was back in 1986 in Offenbach, Gemany with the the man who inspired Kenny. The late great legend Stevie Ray Vaughn. Chris's style fits his personality and like Jon & Scott is a perfect fit in this band.
Finally, there is vocalsit Noah Hunt who has been with Kenny since 1998 and the friendship between those 2 is very evident. His vocal range is amazing and he is a force to reckon with. You know he is having a great time as he has one of the whitest smiles and you can see it all the way in the back.
The audience is a mixed age range from 14 - 70 and they all witness a magical evening as the KWS Band takes them on a journey through Kenny's 21 year history. It is awesome set to watch. The first 60 mins goes by to quickly but the KWS Band is not through with Sheffield.
The encore kicks off with the track 'Blue On Black' then follows with 'I'm A King Bee' and ends with 'Voodoo Chile (Slight Return)' This is 25 minutes of pure unadulterated musicianship and sing along.
For me 'Voodoo Chile' was the outstanding stamp of approval. The arrangement highlighted the Hendrix period and style with the next segement highlighting the SRV period but it was the transition and the final section that was all Kenny Wayne Shepherd. You may not appreciate or understand the Blues but the Kenny Wayne Shepherd Band rocks it and rolls it all up for a fantastic show. The vocals and muscianship are the best I have heard and the experience will not be forgotten by those who were in attendance. All I can say is 'Damn those guys can play'.
I won't be waiting 15 years to see him again.
Kenny Wayne Shepherd - https://www.facebook.com/kennywayneshepherd/
Jarrod Dickenson - https://www.facebook.com/jarroddickensonmusic/
Photos - Shot By Simmons
Review - Geno De Lora