Because Songs Matter

For the next 5 days I am gonna repost the pieces I did on my 5 favorite albums of the year. I’m not saying these are the 5 best albums of the year. I haven’t heard the bulk of what’s in most magazine’s and web sites top 10 list. Instead, I am just writing about my 5 favorite albums this year. I hope y’all enjoy it. I’ll be posting my favorite album on December 28. Now, without further ado:

ninebullets.net 5 favorite albums of the year, #4: Kenny Wayne Shepherd – 10 Days Out: Blues from the Backroads

If I were running an awards show I would have an award called “Most Important Album of the Year” and this years winner would be Kenny Wayne Shepherd’s effort 10 Days Out: Blues from the Backroads. As I said at the midpoint of this year:

At the risk of hyperbole, 10 Days Out is much greater than the sum of it’s parts. 10 Days will serve as documentation of some of the lesser known, but by no means lesser, blues musicians of the South. Some of the people featured on the cd/dvd release passed on before it was released, and more have moved on since. The object was to shine a spotlight on these people while there was still time, and Kenny Wayne Shepherd, along with the legendary Double Trouble and producer Jerry Harrison, achieved their goal in spades. No overdubs, no high-tech fixing, “Live as it went down,” says Shepherd. “What happened is what you hear. We kept it as real as possible.” More history than mere album release, this is the most ‘important’ album released this year, in my opinion.

All of that still rings true. Here is the original piece I did on 10 Days Out:

Holy Flurking Schmidt! This thing is awesome! Allow me to quote from the cd website for a moment:

From the first compelling minutes of TEN DAYS OUT: Blues From TheBackroads, it’s immediately evident that bluesman Kenny Wayne Shepherd is up to something different. Shepherd embarked on a ten-day trek into the heart of America. Traveling highways and byways with a roving documentary film crew, aportable recording studio, portable house band—the esteemed Double Trouble, with producer Jerry Harrison, Shepherd visited blues veterans in their homes,backyards and local clubs, creating as intimate and intense a blues film as has been seen in many a year. The resulting film allows music lovers to join in theexploration and witness the artistic creation of both the film and the accompanying live CD.

With TEN DAYS OUT, Kenny Wayne Shepherd continues his love affair with America’s homegrown music, introducing his fans to a varied lot of his blues predecessors.The goal was to get intimate recordings in intimate places, and maintain authenticity: the album has no overdubs, no high-tech fixing. “Live as it went down,” says Shepherd. “What happened is what you hear. We kept it as real as possible.”

The DVD lays bare that truth, taking us into the small rooms, the kitchens, the dense woods where this music was made. “I was trying to convey the place that produced this kind of music,” says the film’s director Noble Jones, a self-confessed culture junkie, “the elements that came together to produce the blues. The environment these people came from and how it weighed on them.”

So that is the overview. In July of ’04 KWS and the others hit the road, 10 destinations in 10 days. Jamming with blues legends all the way. From the moment Prison Blues starts you know they caught lightning in a bottle. Even though this is technically a Kenny Wayne Shepherd release, the real stars are the ageing musicians whose chops are still sharper than most indie rock kids ever will be. One of the highlights (there are TONS) of the cd is when Clarence “Gatemouth” Brown plays his fiddle like it is a lead blues guitar in Born in Louisiana. I ain’t never heard anything like that in my life. I had already listened to the cd 6 or 7 times before I noticed it and had to listen to that part over again about 4 times in complete awe.

As bad ass as the cd is the real reason to buy this release instead of downloading it is the 1 hour and 46 minute documentary it comes with. I sat riveted to the couch through the entire thing. From juke joint’s to front porches to KWS and Buddy Flett’s performance at Ledbelly’s grave you get to see some amazing performances but some true legends, some of which have already left us. Along the way you also get some really good insight into the history of the genre and the characters that these guys really are. When I was a kid I would watch a skateboarding video and get jazzed as shit to go out and skate. This dvd makes me jazzed as shit to spend a night with a whiskey neat in a sweaty bar listening to howling guitars and haunted men releasing their demons.

I seriously can not recommend this enough to anyone who is a fan of blues music. Especially if you are a peripheral fan, since it will give you so much insight in this, one of the only all American forms of music. Check out the trailer for the documentary and hear Kenny Wayne Shepherd play with B.B. King on “The Thrill Is Gone” and I bet that you will be in a full sprint to the record store to pick up a copy for yourself. However, should you need anymore incentive to go and buy this cd/dvd consider this, partial proceeds are being donated to Music Maker Relief Foundation, a non-profit organization helping impoverished blues artists. More information about the artists involved and the project itself can be found at the Official Website.

I think this cd will be a reoccurring feature here on ninebullets. I tend to follow musical chains and I think this one really poses some impressive links to pursue. I have already ordered some cds from the Buddy Flett fronted band The Bluebirds and I suspect I will be buying material by plenty of the other artists featured on this album.

Kenny Wayne Sheppard w/Cootie Shark and Neil Pattman - Prison Blues     

Kenny Wayne Sheppard w/Buddy Flett - Honky Tonk     

Kenny Wayne Sheppard w/Bryan Lee - Tina Marie     

Kenny Wayne Sheppard Official Site, 10 Days Out Official Site

P.S. Since we are on the subject of blues documentaries I feel obligated to mention another, equally impressive doc featuring some of the old Mississippi backwoods bluesmen including RL Burnside, Junior Kimbrough and T-Model Ford. It has a much grittier feel to it than 10 Days Out but is equally captivating. From imdb:

You See Me Laughin’ is a full length documentary that takes a look at the often untamed lifestyles of the last great North Mississippi bluesmen and the Oxford, MS based label- Fat Possum Records- that struggles to record them. The film is an exciting collage of exclusive interviews, live performances and personal anecdotes. It includes rare, black and white footage of RL Burnside from 1974, disturbingly funny stories about touring told first hand by Iggy Pop and John Spencer Blues Explosion as well as an interesting encounter with Junior Kimbrough described by Bono from U2 and much more. This is not for the faint of heart.

I saw You See Me Laughin’ on IFC a few years ago and will stop on it every time they are airing it to this day.

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