175

Kenny Wayne Shepherd Band: Live On

Ed Kopp By

Sign in to view read count
Whenever I hear another pimply teenager being hyped as a blues guitar god, I am skeptical. Fact is, most kids who shoulder a guitar strap can play a few blues riffs, but it's the rare teen who's capable of complex articulation with his instrument.

Not to say that prodigies don’t arise every decade or so. Kenny Wayne Shepherd has been acclaimed by so many blues experts, including the venerable B. B. King, that my expectations were elevated for his third album.

Unfortunately, Live On is a big disappointment. It's a slick classic-rock release certain to be misrepresented as a real blues album. Furthermore, the production by former Talking Head Jerry Harrison is so cloying, the music here doesn’t stand a chance. Live On isn’t a live album, either, despite its title. Too bad, because the songs would have benefited from the spontaneous give and take of a concert performance.

In fairness, the songs here aren’t awful. Shepherd’s band is adequate if unspectacular, and the guest musicians are top-flight (James Cotton, Dr. John, Warren Haynes, Les Claypool, and Stevie Ray Vaughan’s old rhythm section). Shepherd clearly has some talent, and at age 22, he’s thankfully moved past the teenage-phenom stage. But the production is so murky it squeezes the life out of the music.

The title track is typical. A bombastic slow-blues piece, "Live On" boasts a choir of Mormon Tabernacle proportions that completely drowns out the musicians. Other cuts are hampered by clashing guitars, to the point where it’s hard to make out who’s playing what. There’s a kind of a mechanical undertone throughout, even on great blues-rock tunes like Buddy Miles’ "Them Changes" and Peter Green's "Oh Well." The hard-rocking originals "Shotgun Blues" and "Wild Love" are more successful, but even they would sound much better live.

Shepherd models his playing after Stevie Ray Vaughan and Jimi Hendrix, worthy idols both. But emulation is Shepherd’s liability: He’s a moderately clever imitator, nothing more. It doesn’t help that singer Noah Hunt seems to clone Hendrix’s voice.

To these ears, Jeff Healey and Robin Trower were superior Hendrix wannabes. Shepherd still has plenty of time to make his mark, but I suggest that he find a producer with a rootsier feel.

| Record Label: Giant | Style: Blues


Shop

More Articles

Read Fellowship CD/LP/Track Review Fellowship
by Dan Bilawsky
Published: February 22, 2017
Read E.S.T. Symphony CD/LP/Track Review E.S.T. Symphony
by Karl Ackermann
Published: February 22, 2017
Read June CD/LP/Track Review June
by Dan McClenaghan
Published: February 22, 2017
Read The Invariant CD/LP/Track Review The Invariant
by Mark Sullivan
Published: February 22, 2017
Read Akua's Dance CD/LP/Track Review Akua's Dance
by Dan Bilawsky
Published: February 21, 2017
Read Daylight Ghosts CD/LP/Track Review Daylight Ghosts
by Mark Sullivan
Published: February 21, 2017
Read "Six By Five" CD/LP/Track Review Six By Five
by Dan McClenaghan
Published: March 11, 2016
Read "Reflection" CD/LP/Track Review Reflection
by Nenad Georgievski
Published: January 14, 2017
Read "Stick Men + David Cross: Midori" CD/LP/Track Review Stick Men + David Cross: Midori
by Geno Thackara
Published: March 28, 2016
Read "Symmetry" CD/LP/Track Review Symmetry
by Edward Blanco
Published: April 22, 2016
Read "Wrong is Right" CD/LP/Track Review Wrong is Right
by Eyal Hareuveni
Published: June 4, 2016
Read "Short Stories" CD/LP/Track Review Short Stories
by C. Michael Bailey
Published: November 3, 2016

Post a comment

comments powered by Disqus

Sponsor: ECM Records | BUY NOW  

Support our sponsor

Support All About Jazz's Future

We need your help and we have a deal. Contribute $20 and we'll hide the six Google ads that appear on every page for a full year!

Buy it!