Kenny Wayne Shepherd

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 – I’m Leaving You
Kenny Wayne Shepherd – Shame, Shame, Shame
Kenny Wayne Shepherd – One Foot On The Path

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.

Kenny Wayne Shepherd – True Lies
Kenny Wayne Shepherd – Everything Is Broken
Kenny Wayne Shepherd – Trouble Is

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 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:

Top picks for the first 1/2 of Y2k + 7

Well. Here we are. July. The official beginning of the ass end of the year. So far, this year has proven to be a rather phenomenal concert year for the normally lacking Central Florida region. I was reading an exchange between a bunch of “big-time” bloggers earlier this year about how cheesy all of the “best of” lists that come out at the end of the year are, and it got me to thinking. Shit, I can out-cheese a year-end list…with…wait for it (sorry Bonnell), THE MID-YEAR LIST!

WTF? Why not. I already keep the Essential Listening list. I can spend a day telling you what may favorite 5 so far are. Maybe you’ll buy one, and you should…downloading all the time is like fucking whores. Sure, in the end you got off, but wouldn’t it be nice to get a pretty package every once in a while?

These are selected from my Essential Listening list. It is basically the best albums I have come to hear this year. They may have been released earlier but I did not hear them until 2007 and the same rules apply here. Furthermore, these are not in any order, and isn’t a be-all end-all list. This list could change depending on the day and my mood. All the albums in the Esslist list get regular play. However, some get more than others, and trying to trim those down to a mere 5 has left a few out that may have been on it if I was typing this yesterday….or tomorrow. Without further ado:

My favorites of the first half of 2007:

This is one if those albums. Honestly, I didn’t even put it on the Esslist when I originally posted about it, but I never stopped listening to it. Ever. Then my brother started listening to it in the cubicle next to me at work and it just kept occupying more and more of my music time. So finally, with no fanfare, I quietly added it to the Essential Listening list. Country Ghetto is so much better of an album than I initially gave it credit for. Of everything on this list, this will probably be the album I still listen to 5 years from now. It really is timeless like that.

JJ Grey and Mofro – Circles

Unlike the JJ Grey album, I knew I was in love with this album the moment the cd changer tried to switch to the next disc and I got my drunk ass up off the porch swing and walked inside to play it again. I opened my write-up about these guys with these two sentences:

Somewhere on the highway between Drag the River and Lucero, there is an exit with a dive bar. The Fox Hunt, out of Martinsburg, West Virginia, is that bar’s house band.

I still think those are the best two lines to have ever come from this little blog. At the same time, I have never thought my writeup did these guys justice. The album they put together really does only get better with time. Listening to them way too early in the morning a couple of weeks ago on my way to go fishing sealed the deal on these guys making this post. I do not care that they are just some unsigned band from Virginia who happened to put out a cd. It is better than 95% of the crap that Pitchfork is gonna bust wood over. That’s a fact. If these guys manage to buck the odds and stay together they are gonna be mainstays on your community radio station in a few years. Do yourself a favor and check these kids out. They gots mad skills.

The Fox Hunt – Change My Ways

On the way home from mountain biking over the weekend, I was telling the wife about this post and asking what she thought. I asked her what her choices would be, without thought she says, “Alela Diane and The Wells! I’ll have to think about it after that.” The Wells were already on my short list as well. The characters of this album and myself have spent many an evening and a bike ride together. I cannot wait for the next Wells album, but ’til it gets here, me and outcasts are like a familiar and well worn book.

The Wells – I had a Dream, Jess

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.

Kenny Wayne Shepherd w/Cootie Stark and Neal ‘Big Daddy’ Pattman – Prison Blues

Cootie Stark (1926-2005) – A blind street singer, he learned his stuff from Greenville, South Carolina, bluesmen Uncle Chump and Pink Anderson in the 1930’s. At 70 he rediscovered his unplugged genius and has headlined at festivals throughout the U.S. and Europe. His card catalog repertoire runs from soul classics to Piedmont blues songs like “Sandyland” and “Metal Bottoms.” Cootie Stark was one of the last authentic Piedmont blues guitarists/singers and provided a direct link to a South long gone.

Neal Pattman
(1926-2005) – Nobody made moonshine, worked a cakewalk, chopped wood or played a harmonica like Neal Pattman. Losing an arm in a wagon wheel at the age of nine didn’t slowed him at all. “66 years ago the Blues knocked on my door and they wouldn’t leave.” His testimony can be heard in a sound and a style his daddy taught him as a child in the country outside Athens, Georgia.

As I said before, “Two Cow Garage is a band I can root for. Three completely awesome guys who write completely awesome rock music and play it with everything in them, regardless of the size of the crowd behind the monitors, and if you can’t get behind that, then I dunno why you would even bother to read this site.” They may hate their name, but what a name they are making out of it. “Three” shows the band at their cow-punk/rock-and-freaking-roll best. Life on the road may have left them a little jaded, but not so cynical you need a white belt to listen to them. Three will be one of the best albums this year, regardless of what gets released in these remaining six months, and if you are so lucky to have them come to your town, they will also be one of the best rock shows you will get to see.

Two Cow Garage – Should’ve California

The album I most regret not being on this list:

I kept thinking that damned Gill Landry album has got to be on this list, then I could not find anything to bump, but at the same time, I could not accept leaving this list without a mention of Lawless Soirez. This album is beautiful on many layers. “Featuring a mixture of old country blues, jazz and songster music of the 20’s and 30’s, and Gill’s voice….and oh what a voice, makes this the perfect cd for a quiet night with a warm glass of whiskey and a little sweat.” One listen to the song Dixie and you should understand.

Gill Landry – Dixie

And there you go. Hopefully there is much awesomeness left to be found in the remaining six months. I’m gonna go find some to write about tomorrow.

Take care.

Buddy Flett – Mississippi Sea

The immediate stand out track on 10 Days Out…Blues from the Backroads was Kenny and Buddy’s acoustic version of “Honky Tonk”. So much so that Buddy Flett was the first artist from 10 Days Out whose material I pursued more extensively. It took a while but I finally figured out that he was a member of The Bluebirds and promptly placed an order. The cd wasn’t my cup of tea at all. I was looking more for the sound he had on Honky Tonk and the Bluebirds disc wasn’t that. In retrospect I probably didn’t give the cd a fair chance but my father loves it so it all worked out in the end. I had pretty much moved on when I heard about a Buddy Flett solo debut called Mississippi Sea.Coming out of Shreveport, Louisiana’s Sand Box Studios, Mississippi Sea captures that chugging acoustic blues sound I was hoping for. The disc features 12 tracks. All written or co-written by Buddy and produced by Buddy and Darren Osborne. Five of the tracks feature a full band ensemble while the remaining tracks just feature Buddy with his whiskey soaked voice and some bad ass acoustic and slide-guitar. This is exactly what I was hoping for when I went in search of more material from Buddy Flett. To say I fell in love with this cd immediately would be accurate. If you enjoyed Buddy’s material on Kenny Wayne Shepherd’s cd/dvd then this is disc is a must own for you.

It’s essential listening for me.

Buddy Flett – I Hear You Callin’
Buddy Flett – Stoner Hill
Buddy Flett – What Have I Done

Buddy Flett’s Official Site, Buddy Flett on Myspace, Buy Mississippi Sea


Here is a kick ass video I just came across on YouTube. It is what appears to be a home video of Buddy playing the title track, Mississippi Sea….Totally Awesome:

The Rock Report – Kenny Wayne Shepherd @ Tampa Theater (4/28)

Shreveport, Louisiana guitar prodigy Kenny Wayne Shepherd brought his travelling version of the 10 Days Out…..Blues from the Backroads cd/dvd collaboration to Tampa for a night of rock and blues guitar worship.

The show began with KWS and his band doing a short set of music from Kenny’s earlier releases. I viewed this as an opening act and counted the songs until the meat of the show began. I like Kenny’s music, a lot; but this night was about the fellas he brought on tour with him, and I could not wait for them to get on stage.

Before the touring “guests” came on stage, Kenny stepped to the mic and gave a brief synopsis of the 10 Days Out project. Then he let some clips from the beginning credits of the dvd run on a movie screen along with some clips from Buddy Flett‘s portion of the disc before Buddy took the stage. This was when the fun began! Five songs full of slide guitar solo’s by Buddy and ending his set with Honky Tonk Blues from the 10 Days Out cd, the show was only set to get better. Before Buddy left the stage he and Kenny sat down to pay homage to the late Etta Baker by playing her 10 Days Out contribution Knoxville Rag.

This led to welcoming Jessie Sanders to the stage. Jessie’s Chicago blues style guitar playing and harmonica really seemed to energize the crowd. Jessie seemed to be having more fun than anyone else on the stage during his set, which culminated in a tit-for-tat exchange of guitar licks with Kenny in a crowd rousing “Got My Mojo Workin’.”

Next to take the stage was Bryan Lee. Bryan gave Kenny his first chance on a stage at the age of 13 and now things come full circle as Kenny gets to take Mr. Lee out on tour with him. Since I got 10 Days Out and started collecting the music of the artists featured on the disc , Bryan Lee has without question been my favorite, and he did not disappoint on this night as he brought his New Orleans flavor to the stage. Closing Bryan’s set with the crowd pleasing Tina Marie set the stage for all of the nights participants to join him and Kenny for a few songs.

For an encore Kenny came out and did a version of Voodoo Child that would have made Jimmy sit back and take notice. It definitely left the crowd speechless. Which leads me to an overall observation of the show. As talented as Kenny Wayne Shepherd is, and the boy has got talent to spare, he was content to take a back seat during the bulk of the show, much like he did on the cd. This truly was a homage to his influences. In an era of the look at me attitudes of athletes and rock stars it was pretty damned refreshing. Don’t get me wrong, Kenny got his share of the spotlight but when it was time for the other people to shine he was able to blend in and play the role of backing band member with a sincerity and grace that I can appreciate.

Should the Blues from the Backroads tour get back out on the road and come to your town you should make a point to go. It is a rare treat to see the collection of talent that this tour offers on a single stage.

Muddy Waters – Got My Mojo Working

Jimi Hendrix – Voodoo Child (Slight Return)
Kenny Wayne Shepherd – Voodoo Child (Slight Return)

Also, here is a clip from Kenny’s new cd/dvd, 10 Days Out…Blues from the Backroads. It is from the documentary you get and is KWS with the surving members of Muddy Waters’ band. This is my personal favorite performance on the cd.

So, you saw my review of the Radio Moscow show and felt like you missed out (you did) and you don’t want it to happen again. I understand. It’s hard to get away from VH1…shit, I’ve lost many many hours to it…..but it’s time to break the vicious cycle. This is the perfect week. We got a lot going on in the Tampa Bay area this week so stop picking your nose and get out on town. Here are the highlights, per me:

Thursday night @ New World Brewery: The Weary Boys w/local favs The Diviners opening

Here we go. The moment of truth. What will The Weary Boys sans Mario be like? I haven’t seen any bad reviews from other shows. I imagine it will be a tad awkward for the crowd at first seeing as how most of them probably don’t know Mario has left the band yet. I am maintaining a positive attitude towards the whole deal. Plus, the remaining Wearies added a banjo player and there is nothing like a banjo to amp up the energy of a good show. These guys pull a huge crowd that drinks their fill and then dances it off every time they come to town. I would advise each and every one of you to not miss The Weary Boys when they come to your neck of the woods.

You can see my review of The Weary Boy’s last cd, Jumpin’ Jolie, here.

The Weary Boys – Jambalaya
The Weary Boys – Baby Have No Fun

The Diviners – Remember the Beatnicks

Saturday night @ Tampa Theater: Kenny Wayne Shepherd w/Bryan Lee

Kenny Wayne Shepherd brings his Ten Days Out tour to the Tampa Theater. He is also bringing Bryan Lee (sings Tina Marie) with him. This show promises to be a shit ton of fun and I know the ticket price is enough to scare some people off but if you got the money to spend you should go to this show. As a taste of what this is gonna be like I am posting a few mp3’s from Bryan Lee’s cd “Live at the Absinthe Bar” where he is performing with Kenny Wayne. I defy you to listen to these and not think this show is gonna be one of the best of 2007.

You can see my review of Ten Days Out here.

Bryan Lee w/Kenny Wayne Shepherd – Going Down
Bryan Lee w/Kenny Wayne Shepherd – Look on Yonder Wall

Kenny Wayne Shepherd w/Bryan Lee – Tina Marie (from Ten Days Out)

Saturday night @ New World Brewery: The Dark Romantics

Yes Yes Yes….I know, I am posting about 2 shows on a Saturday night. Basically, the plan for the wife and I is to bust ass to New World after the KWS show in time to see Lakeland art-rockers The Dark Romantics. The last time these guys played Tampa they basically played a show for me, my wife, ninebullets site master Trevor and his wife. To say it was embarrassing would be quite the understatement. So come on Tampa. Get out and support your local talent. You can see my review of The Dark Romantic’s debut cd here.

The Dark Romantics – Baby Boy Baby Girl
The Dark Romantics – So Confused (and we like it)

This weekend and all the events listed above are Autopsy IV approved and I hope to see some of y’all out!

Kenny Wayne Shepherd – 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.