Kenny Wayne Shepherd
" Live! In Chicago "
Roadrunner Records

Blueswax 8

Bombs Away In A Great Way! Kenny Wayne Shepherd catapulted on to the scene in the mid 1990s. He enjoyed huge doses of radio airplay the likes of which hadn't been seen since Stevie Ray Vaughan had similar successes in the mid 1980s. Shepherd was born in Shreveport, Louisiana, is just thirty-three years old, and the Grammy nominee continues the blues-rock path with his latest for a new label, Live! In Chicago on Roadrunner Records.

This CD was recorded at Chicago's House of Blues. The Kenny Wayne Shepherd Band performs here five original songs and nine cover tunes. In addition to his regular touring band, which includes two members of Stevie Ray Vaughan's Double Trouble, Shepherd shares the stage with the great Hubert Sumlin, Bryan Lee, Buddy Flett, and Willie "Big Eyes" Smith.

The first five tracks, including four originals, are performed by the current KWS band with no guests, and they are quite impressive. "Somehow, Somewhere, Someway" starts in solid groove, then in a blink of an eye shifts into "King's Highway," wherein Shepherd takes it down a notch and then gradually raises the volume and explodes with Noah Hunt's vocals impressively nudging Shepherd on. "King's Highway" segues into "True Lies," with Shepherd and the entire band raging and breathing fire. The KWS band takes a much-deserved break and breezes into "Deja Voodoo," where Riley Osbourn's keyboards are jazzy and soulful, and the interplay with Shepherd is extremely tasty. This extraordinary song suddenly becomes great driving music when Hunt's vocals ignite the band and Shepherd starts to roar and eventually throws his guitar into overload. Wow, powerful stuff here. Next up its B.B. King's "Sell My Monkey," where the band is not at its prior song's high volume, but, man, are they so very comfortable with this blues classic and flying low to the ground at breakneck speed.

Okay, here come the guest spots. First up is Buddy Flett's seductive "Dance For Me Girl," which really fits well with the previous five tunes. By the way, Flett is no stranger to Shepherd; Flett's band the Bluebirds backed a twelve-year-old Shepherd. Willie "Big Eyes" Smith sings and plays harp on Jimmy Reed's "Baby, Don't Say That No More" and Smith's own "Eye to Eye." Both tunes are not memorable. I guess its payback time for Bryan Lee who once gave a thirteen-year-old Shepherd a spot to jam with Lee in New Orleans. Lee sings and plays guitar on "How Many More Years" and "Sick and Tired" where it's evident the KWS band is not nearly as playful as they were with their own material and song selections. Hubert Sumlin steps up vocally and with his guitar on his "Feed Me" and sans vocals with the Wolf's "Rocking Daddy," where Noah Hunt's vocals are inspiring, and Hubert is spot on his game.

Enough with the guests. For the concluding two songs it's back to just the KWS band. Their original "Blue On Black" is a southern rock ballad that's executed hauntingly with Hunt's enthralling vocals and Shepherd's passionate guitar bursts. Last up is a raucous cover of James Moore's (better known as Slim Harpo) "I'm a King Bee" that just is balls to the wall and had to be either the set closer or encore - whew!

Kudos to Shepherd for parading his blues heroes, but I could have done without these special guest appearances. Be that as it may, this live disc is one fine document for the entire KWS band that I am sure will garner ample airplay and will stand the test of time. Ah, but is this the ultimate KWS band live recording? To date, I would say yes, but consider that Shepherd's only thirty-three, and having just seen them in Tremblant, Canada, this summer of 2010, I'd have to say that this is a near-superstar band in the making, and I'm certain that there are several more live discs ahead. Note: See the KWS band live if you can. You won't be disappointed. Enjoy!

Bob Putignano a senior contributing editor at BluesWax. He is also the heart of Sounds of Blues at Bob maybe contacted at:

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