Mr Kyps, Poole

Kenny Wayne Shepherd

Kenny Wayne Shepherd was born in Shreveport, Louisiana in June 1977. Self-taught, the guitarist took up the instrument in earnest after catching a Stevie Ray Vaughan gig in 1984 when he was just seven years old. He signed to Giant Records in 1993 and released his first album, “Ledbetter Heights” two years later, selling over half a million copies. Since then he has put out a further eight CD’s and has taken a number of singles into the top ten of the American Billboard Mainstream Rock Chart. In a successful career spanning twenty-five years, he has been nominated for five Grammys, received two Billboard Music Awards and two Blues Music Awards. Kenny’s welcome return to Kyps on Friday night as part of a five-date UK tour, was in support of his latest offering, “Lay it on Down”.

Opening for KWS tonight is the rising star of British blues, Laurence Jones, who is a frequent visitor to Kyps in his own right. His band of Bennett Holland on keyboards, bassist Greg Smith and drummer Phil Wilson warmed up an already sizeable crowd with a solid forty minute set of blues rock originals and covers, drawing loud applause for his take on the Dylan / Hendrix classic “All Along the Watchtower” in particular. The twenty-five-year-old Liverpudlian has come a long way in a short amount of time, releasing five albums and winning the British Blues Awards ‘Young Artist of the Year’ for three consecutive years. On leaving the stage he reminded us he will be returning to Kyps towards the end of November, he’s worth a look.

During the gear changeover, I managed to work myself down to the front left of the stage, but it was a crush, as the sell-out crowd jostled for position awaiting the man event. After a quick turnaround, the band walked on, however, I noticed there had been some changes since he was last here in 2014. Long-standing singer of twenty years Noah Hunt was present and correct, but the English bass player Tony Franklin (former member of The Firm with Jimmy Page and Paul Rogers) had been replaced by one time collaborator and producer of Melissa Etheridge, Kevin McCormick, Joe Krown had been added for extra keyboard textures and, most surprisingly, Chris ‘Whipper’ Layton, the ex-drummer with Stevie Ray Vaughan’s Double Trouble was missing in action due to a family emergency and had been replaced at short notice by an old KWS stalwart, Sam “The Freight Train” Bryant, not that the late change would make a jot of difference as the evening unfolded.

Kenny Wayne Shepherd
Kenny Wayne Shepherd 12

The band avoided the corny, “Hello Poole how you doing” platitudes and launched into a four-song opening salvo of “Never Looking Back” from 2011’s “How I Go”, “Ride Your Life”, a stop-start rocker that incorporates Kenny’s love of old cars in the lyric, “True Lies” a riffy twelve bar from his sophomore effort “Trouble Is” and a stonking version of SRV’s “The House is Rocking” before drawing breath. The sweating, heaving crowd shouted an acknowledgement as Kenny finally said “Hi”, before introducing a trio of songs from his latest release “Lay it on Down”. Noah dons an acoustic guitar for the ballad, “Hard Lesson Learned” and Kenny takes over vocal duties on the mid-tempo “Baby Got Gone” and a turbocharged “Down For Love”, proving that the Wayne Shepherd pipes can hold a tune as well as the next guitar hero. “Heat of the Sun” has been a mainstay in the set ever since it appeared six years ago on “How I Go” and it’s not surprising, Noah gets to show off his powerful, bluesy vocal prowess on the verses and Kenny burns up the frets on a couple of extended outings that nearly takes the roof off.

Back in 2013 Shepherd, Stephen Stills and Barry Goldberg from the Electric Flag, formed an on-off blues band called The Rides, along with Chris Layton on drums and bassist Kevin McCormick. They released an album, “Can’t Get Enough” and the next song tonight was on it, a straight take on the Elmore James standard “Talk to Me Baby”, sans the slide that James is noted for. Next up, we go way back to his debut album, “Ledbetter Heights” for a brace of songs including, “Deja Voodoo”, his first single which introduced the world to his talents and still sounds as fresh as the day it was conceived and “Born With a Broken Heart”, a mid-tempo shuffle. We then jump to the present day with the catchy “Diamonds and Gold”, another outing for Kenny’s vocals and plenty of vigorous wah-wah action followed by “Nothing But the Night”, another memorable tune. When asked “Do you like Blues?”, the reply is in the affirmative which is handy as the next song, BB King’s “You Done Lost Your Good Thing Now” grows into a bravado display from firstly Krown on keyboards and then Kenny who steps up for the solo of the night, channelling BB through his fingers for the first twenty-four bars before unleashing a torrent of notes, bends and frills, the intensity he puts across is quite staggering.

Another shuffle, “Shotgun Blues brings a barnstorming night to an end, apart for a two-song encore of “Blue on Black” from his second album and a virtuoso “Voodoo Chile” that Kenny has been closing his shows with since the age of fifteen, why fix what ain’t broke.

During the band introductions, it was revealed that drummer Sam Bryant joined the tour at such short notice that he hadn’t even played half the songs before, you wouldn’t have known, as he didn’t miss a beat. The sheer professionalism and polish of the band shines through, the three supporting musicians are superb, keeping it tight and unobtrusive allowing the two front men the freedom to spark and feed off each other as they dominate the stage, but there is no doubt who the star of the show is, when Kenny unleashes another draw dropping solo on his Fender Strat, it’s game over, simply brilliant.

Kenny Wayne Shepherd Set List
Never Looking Back
Ride Your Life
True Lies
The House is Rockin’ (Stevie Ray Vaughan)
Hard Lesson Learned
Baby Got Gone
Down For Love
Heat of the Sun
Talk to Me Baby (Elmore James)
Deja Voodoo
Born With a Broken Heart
Diamonds and Gold
Nothing but the Night
You Done Lost Your Good Thing Now (BB King)
Shotgun Blues
Blue on Black
Voodoo Chile (Jimi Hendrix)


Words by John Cherry.

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