Up until “10 Days Out”, Kenny Wayne Shepherd was an artist whose name I knew, but music I really didn’t. I had a coworker back in the day who used to preach the gospel of KWS but never brought me one ounce of music to actually hear. Then, earlier this year, I read a review for the “10 Days Out” release and went on the search for it that night. We all know how that turned out. I have been collecting music by some of the artists featured on the album (you’ll see their names in the coming month or two), so I figured that while I was collecting these cds, I would be remiss to just ignore KWS. So, after seeing him live, I ordered up all 3 of his studio albums. Now, I have said before that I am no expert on the blues, nor will I ever claim to be, but I am an expert when it comes to knowing what I like….and I do like the blues. This is a brief review of Kenny’s other releases.
Kenny Wayne Shepherd – Ledbetter Heights
The Ledbetter Heights neighborhood, traditionally known as “The Bottoms”, is one of the earliest parts of Shreveport to be settled outside the original downtown district, dating back to the 19th century. For almost all of its history, it has been predominantly African-American. In the early 20th century, there was a red-light district with legal prostitution within this neighborhood, and musician Huddie “Leadbelly” Ledbetter, after whom the neighborhood is now named, lived and performed there. The renaming of the neighborhood to Ledbetter Heights in the 1990s was part of an effort to rehabilitate the area’s image, as it had become known as an economically depressed and crime-ridden area.
Shepherd named his debut album after this neighborhood as an homage to the blues tradition of his home town.
Recorded when Kenny was 17 years old, this cd was released in 1995. Many people regard this as his best release and, outside of “10 Days Out”, I would be inclined to agree. While dismissed by the critics as a young gun protege’ with lots of style but no soul, the fans took to it without issue. It is a raw blues guitar orgy with a little rock and country tossed in for spice. Raw being the key word. This is the cd that will be alongside “10 Days Out” in my house for frequent listening pleasure.
Kenny Wayne Shepherd – Trouble Is
“Trouble Is” was Kenny’s second release. A lot of people liked it, and I think it has some stellar tracks on it. For some reason though, it just doesn’t catch me like “Ledbetter Heights”. Maybe it lacks the raw quality of “Ledbetter”….I dunno what it is, but it boils down to this: “Trouble Is” sounds like something I would hear on cd, while “Ledbetter” sounds like something I could hear in a bar one night. I like the cd mind you, I just don’t see myself reaching past “Ledbetter” and “10 Days” to listen to this album too often.
Next came a live cd entitled “Live On” that I have not bought yet, but seeing as how blues is a genre best heard live I imagine it will be awesome and it’s on my short list of cds to buy. The follow-up to “Live On”, “The Place You’re In” was Shepherd’s effort at releasing a rock disc. Incidentally, it was also the first disc to feature Kenny on vocals. To say the disc is a complete failure is an understatement. He abandoned his blues sound and ends up sounding like a fish out of water. Since ninebullets.net is not a critics site I’ll just leave it at that.
Next was “10 Days Out”, and we all know how I feel about that cd. So where does that leave us? I’m not too sure. I hope “10 Days Out” shows Kenny coming back to the blues…getting back to that raw, tossing back whiskey shots with beer sound….and if so, I think we are in for great things.
Only time will tell.
Kenny Wayne Shepherd Band covering Midnight Rider: