Kenny Wayne Shepherd
The Traveler begins with “Woman Like You”: Noah Hunt is among protagonists with a powerful, restrained and always in order voice, and Chris Layton, ex Double Trouble – Stevie Ray Vaughan‘s band – brings rhythm and “body” to the song, until Kenny Wayne Shepherd enters the scene who launches into a simple but powerful rock blues solo. The opening song makes things clear right away by making us understand what we should expect: an easy listening rock blues album with great guitar tests, which follows the wake of the previous “Lay It Down” work on thoughtful songwriting and with a bigger space left to the inspiration of the remaining band’s members.
This is a CD more than careful, without dramatic turn of events; it strikes not at the novelty of messages nor the eclecticism of the performances, but because it’s played with honesty, without frills; the real one sore spot of long play is “Better With Time”, a song with a pinch of soul, relaxed but too pop.
This new release shows an artist with over twenty-five years of career behind him, with a heart that beats to the sound of blues, but who is ready to take risks, to mix genres by exploring their limits even if sometimes with solutions that are not too original, but of impact. Moreover, it has the advantage of having a distinctive sound, not easy to have in today’s record market, and it is a sound marked by southern that transports to the swamps of Louisiana.
Continuing in the voiced explorations of the band we find “Take It Home”, an interesting ballad, quiet and with a pinch of country that reminds the sounds of Alan Jackson even if, in this case, they are supported by an epic solo; and the cover of “Mr Soul”, by Neil Young, played here to be a double tribute to both the songwriter and Rolling Stones, recalling the iconic groove of “Satisfaction” while in “Tallwwind” and “Gravity” Shepherd leaves the shores sure of the blues by producing rock ballads in pure AOR style – the first with some southern influence – far less performing than they could have been, although solidly built, with a grate arrangement and a powerful guitar.
“I Want You” is a blues, the primordial sound of Kenny and the one he navigates better; in this sound the organ played by Joe Krown finds space to give a class accompaniment, and together with the winds it mixes with the notes of Stratocaster who first dedicates himself to take rhythm and then in the tail explodes, unleashing himself to take dominance. Another appreciable proof is “Long Time Running” in which, like an excellent rider, Shepherd wisely holds the bridle of the pureblood, which is his six-string until he lets it run and unleashes itself shaking the earth in its passage proving that Shepherd is still one of the best in the business when he holds his trusty instrument and wants to let go.
This great album ends with a Joe Walsh’s cover, Eagles’s historic guitar, “Turn To Stone”, a cover, the second and last of the album, which is maybe the best proof: Shepherd wants to leave his mark and he did it, as usual, using the inevitable Stratocaster that starts sweet and then explodes straight to the heart. The song continues with this seductive and aggressive alternation and just when you wish it would never end the time has already over, rest the headphones and return to the real world leaving Louisiana; a bittersweet ending that is the proof of a mature artist at ease even in the choice of the lineup.
- Woman Like You
- Long Time Running
- I Want You
- We All Right
- Take It On Home
- Mr. Soul
- Better With Time
- Turn To Stone