While we may wish he’d step further out of the shadows of his influences (especially Stevie Ray Vaughan), there’s no denying the guitar skills of one Kenny Wayne Shepherd. That said, his latest effort is so rollicking you forget all that.
On this live set, Shepherd plays host to several notable guests (Hubert Sumlin, Willie “Big Eyes” Smith, Buddy Flett, singer/guitarist Bryan Lee, and more). His bold, brash sound dominates shuffles like “King’s Highway,” where he shows off his chops while the intensity builds to a full-scale blues/rock assault. On “Sell My Monkey,” with its uptempo West-Coast-shuffle feel, his jazzy playing fits perfectly and offers a glimpse of what he can do when he steps out from behind his influences. The melodic, loud solo and passionate vocal let his personality shine through. “Deja Voodoo,” which was featured on his debut album 15 years ago, gets a jazzy kickoff and a big-toned solo before morphing into a minor-key rock song with wonderful leads. The licks and the sound are the star, with Shepherd’s Strat serving up a throaty sound.
Between the guests and Shepherd’s amped-up performance, there’s a lot of excitement in a set that shows a guitarist paying tribute to his influences while still continuing to grow as a player.
This article originally appeared in VG‘s Feb. ’11 issue. All copyrights are by the author and Vintage Guitar magazine. Unauthorized replication or use is strictly prohibited.