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Kenny Wayne Shepherd

How I Go

Review by Mark Johnson

Kenny Wayne Shepherd needs no introduction. Even though he’s still barely in his 30s, he’s been playing blues and rock guitar since age 13. I found out about him back when I was listening to a lot of Stevie Ray Vaughan. Shepherd met Vaughan when he was seven and it must have left a big impression. Shepherd is one of the few blues guitarists who, with his Louisiana roots, sounds and plays like the rock/blues legend Vaughan.

How I Go is Shepherd’s latest album and it is full of surprises. He does some great covers, but also mixes in his own compositions which provide his own modern interpretations of the blues.

 

It was great to read that Kenny Wayne Shepherd was still recording and great to hear his new original music again. Shepherd’s cover of “Yer Blues,” “Backwater Blues,” “Oh, Pretty Woman” and other classics are worth the price of admission alone. But Shepherd gives you 17 tracks full of fun on the expanded CD. If you don’t know Shepherd, this will give you the perfect introduction. If you know his music this is an excellent addition to the catalog of songs he has already compiled.

This review is available in book format (hardcover and paperback) in Music Street Journal: 2011  Volume 4 at lulu.com/strangesound.

Track by Track Review
Never Lookin’ Back

“Never Lookin’ Back” is a Shepherd original with power and thunder on guitar. It’s about leaving behind an old flame and moving on. “I’ve seen all I need to see and I’m never lookin’ back / I don’t want no more of that.” The drums and bass are great in support, almost giving it a ZZ Top feel. The piano adds the frosting on the cake.

Come on Over
This has that back-draft guitar sound familiar from some of Hendrix’ classics at its opening. Shepherd does a great guitar solo and provides great rocking lyrics like, “she says you ain’t broken you’re just bent like me.” The tune is great blues rock full of expression, good drums, bass, and of course Shepherd’s lead guitar buzz.
Yer Blues
When you take on a big Beatles cover like “Yer Blues,” you’re either asking for trouble or very sure you can pull it off well. Now Shepherd isn’t Lennon. There was only one of him. However, Shepherd does a fantastic job of interpreting this massive classic. Shepherd’s guitar solo has a bluesy jam sound, but it does not diminish the song’s power at all. His interpretation sounds more like what Stevie Ray Vaughan might have done with this classic. Shepherd extends the track with good vocals that reflect the dark nature of the lyrics being delivered, as if he doesn’t want to let it go. His guitar solo is so hot; he needed a slower track to follow it. 
Show Me the Way Back Home
“Show Me the Way Back Home” is another Shepherd original that is slower and quieter than the last song, but has its own power. The organ is wonderful and Shepherd’s lyrics provide a rich landscape for this ballad. His guitar solo is a cool long winding road of blues power.
Cold
Here is another good original song about people in relationships and how their feelings change over time. “When did your heart grow cold? / When did it get so cold?”
Oh, Pretty Woman
“Oh, Pretty Woman” is Albert King’s famous blues number taken to the maximum, complete with a horn section. The fuzzy guitar from Shepherd blends well with that horn section before he just blasts a solo into the atmosphere. This is a well delivered classic for the ages.
Anywhere the Wind Blows
Here is one of the best original tracks on the album. It features very deep lyrics and almost sounds like a Paul Rodgers/Bad Company classic. However, the power lead electric guitar solo will remind you this is a KWS album.
Dark Side of Love
“Dark Side of Love” is a funky song that will take you back in time to some great blues tracks of the past. Although it is a new original track, the feeling of that horn section and those crying blues chords bring back memories of Shepherd’s earlier works and many classic Chicago blues tracks.
Heat of the Sun
Here is a launching blues power chord number full of great lead guitar and vocals.  The drums support well and the female backing chorus adds to the epic nature of the track. This is a deep passionate song delivered with incredible poise, including some intricate guitar playing.
Round and Round
This is another great blues influenced rocker.
The Wire
“The Wire” opens with very cool guitar riffs and power drums before Shepherd’s vocals drive through. It is another excellent rocker.
Who’s Gonna Catch You Now?
This tune is a very personal song set to acoustic guitar at first, then electric later.  As a recent parent, Shepherd tried to capture the powerlessness of being a parent and not being able to control everything and protect your children from the situations life presents over time.
Backwater Blues
“Backwater Blues” is Bessie Smith’s classic blues number taken to new heights with Shepherd’s relentless blues guitar and that wonderful piano providing rhythm and effects. This is easily one of the best tracks on the album. It’s full of great ZZ Top-like fuzz buzz guitar.
Strut
Here is a fast little rockabilly song full of great piano and guitar that took me right back to Led Zeppelin’s “Hot Dog.”
Butterfly
“Butterfly” is another good rocker full of great vocals and guitar.
Cryin’ Shame
Here Shepherd brings back that Texas shuffle Stevie Ray Vaughan made famous. The female chorus repeating the word “shame” helps add to the memories.
Baby the Rain Must Fall
This starts out slow with drums, bass and Shepherd’s lead acoustic guitar. It features great lyrics sung well. Then some great blues electric guitar soloing is included along with the solid drums.
 
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