Lights Up the Green with a Bolt of the Blues
A Feature Article by Rich and Laura Lynch

As fans exited the Mayo Performing Arts Center (MPAC) in Morristown, New Jersey on Saturday, September 6, 2014 the dramatic display of lightning in the sky complimented the electric performance just given by the Kenny Wayne Shepherd Band inside the newly renovated theater near the city's historic green.

The Kenny Wayne Shepherd Band Lights Up the Green with a Bolt of the Blues
The Kenny Wayne Shepherd Band onstage at the MAYO PAC in Morristown, NJ in 2014.

While students across the region returned to the classroom this week Kenny Wayne Shepherd along with his cohorts presented a comprehensive lesson in old and new school blues for the near sell-out crowd. Of course, KWS has been studying his craft since kindergarten and his expanding catalog of music is required listening for anyone wanting to gain understanding of the modern blues genre.

At age 16, Kenny Wayne Shepherd (KWS) burst on the music scene with the radio hit "Déjà Voodoo" from his debut album Ledbetter Heights (1995). Since then, this self-taught guitarist, singer/songwriter has been on the rise and on the road, thus only getting better with time. KWS is a star in his own right yet he has much respect for the musicians who have gone before him. Want proof? Check out his latest album or his CD/DVD documentary 10 Days Out: Blues from the Backroads where the KWS Band interviewed and jammed with old-time blues men & women who were major influences in the genre. The people - paid little - who played for the pure love of the music.

Goin' Home released in May of 2014 is KWS' tribute to blues greats including Bo Diddley, Buddy Guy, SVR, The Kings and more. Kenny returned to his hometown of Shreveport, Louisiana to record Goin' Home over an 11 day period with renowned producer Brady Blade. The album is a passionate yet straightforward collection with few overdubs featuring an impressive list of guests - Warren Haynes, Robert Randolph and Ringo Starr to name a few. The KWS Band is currently on the road supporting the new CD.

The Kenny Wayne Shepherd Band Lights Up the Green with a Bolt of the Blues
The five members of the Kenny Wayne Shepherd Band put on a powerful and potent performance.

In the tradition of the blues the Kenny Wayne Shepherd Band are hard playing, hard working musicians who are often on tour thus the group is tight. They came out on fire at the MPAC with "Never Lookin' Back" which featured a short flashy solo from Kenny. "Somehow, Somewhere, Someway" was seductive and smoldering with more fine fret work from KWS who made it a point to play to different sections of the audience throughout the night.

The band added new elements to Dylan's "Everything Is Broken". They rocketed into "The House Is Rockin' " by Stevie Ray Vaughan where Shepherd handled lead vocals as Noah Hunt contributed electric rhythm guitar to the mix. Kenny also sang "Search and Destroy" an Iggy Pop tune. After almost every song the group received standing ovations.

"Heat of the Sun" slowed the pacing down but KWS still sizzled on his leads complimented by Riley Osbourn on the keys. Kenny mentioned the new record and later shared that he had met Bo Diddley when he was 15. "He made a big impression on me," stated Kenny. They paid tribute to the man with "You Can't Judge a Book by the Cover". Other legends such as Elmore James and B.B. King were honored as the band played their classics with a KWS flair allowing plenty of room for jamming.

"Blues is the foundation of all our music," stated Kenny as he progressed into another stellar solo. It was subtle at first before exploding into a series of blazing riffs. Kenny works with a talented team. Tony Franklin (The Firm & more) on bass with Chris Layton (Double Trouble) on drums craft the all important grooves of the blues. Noah Hunt is a powerful lead singer and Riley Osbourn (B3/keys) is a master who plays it all from boogie-woogie to rock.

The Kenny Wayne Shepherd Band Lights Up the Green with a Bolt of the Blues
Kenny Wayne Shepherd stepped into the spotlight for a number of exhilarating six string solos.

The concert was a blend of old & new school blues that was presented with reverence. Their encore featured the bold "Blue On Black", a beguiling "I'm a King Bee" and what has now become a KWS signature song "Voodoo Child (Slight Return). This says a lot as it is a Jimi Hendrix original that was also brilliantly covered by SRV. Yet, Kenny was spellbinding as he conjured up his own unique voodoo with lighting fast fret work and a number of notes played with the guitar behind Kenny's head, thus the KWS Band closed their electrified show on high.

Opening for KWS was 7Horse. They were an innovative duo featuring Joie Calio (guitars) and Phil Leavitt (drums). Both are veteran players who came together in 2011 with two albums to their credit. 7Horse is best known for their song "Meth Lab Zoso Sticker" that was used in the movie The Wolf of Wall Street.

Highlights of their animated set included "Headhunter Blues" a fast paced punkish tune tinged with the blues. The spoken word story of a voodoo wedding that moved into a colorful song taking place at the "Carousel Bar". A mellow pace set the right tone for "A Friend In Weed" a track about a friendly place and a friendly plant. 7Horse closed with their best known song. The drums gave the song a dark heavy vibe as the guitar contributed a blues feel all topped off with a bit of howling. 7Horse crafted a broad range of sounds to compliment their creative storytelling during their 9 song set.

The Kenny Wayne Shepherd Band Lights Up the Green with a Bolt of the Blues
The Kenny Wayne Shepherd Band hit the road to support Goin' Home in 2014.

The Kenny Wayne Shepherd Band dazzled the MPAC. It was another engaging concert presented by the venue which continues to feature a wide range of artists such as KWS. Upcoming events include Bill Engvall, Don Williams, B. Stokes & Kelli O'Hara, Ladies of Laughter, NJ Tap Ensemble and ASIA.

The KWS Band: Kenny Wayne Shepherd - guitars/vocals / Tony Franklin - bass / Noah Hunt - lead vocals / Chris Layton - drums / Riley Osbourn - B3/keys

SETLIST: Never Lookin' Back / Somehow, Somewhere, Someway / Everything Is Broken / The House Is Rockin' / Search and Destroy / Heat of the Sun / You Can't Judge a Book by the Cover / Breaking Up Somebody's Home / Looking Back to See / Talk to Me Baby / Woke Up This Morning (My Baby's Gone) / You Done Lost Your Good Thing Now / Shotgun Blues / Encore / Blue On Black / I'm a King Bee / Voodoo Child (Slight Return)

The Kenny Wayne Shepherd Band Lights Up the Green with a Bolt of the Blues
7Horse from Los Angeles was trotted out to start the show.

Related Links: For more information on KENNY WAYNE SHEPHERD and the other organizations mentioned please visit the following links -- Kenny Wayne Shepherd | 7Horse | Mayo Arts Center | The Rides - 2013 Live Review | KWS - 2012 Review | KWS at Experience Hendrix | KWS - 2009 Review | KWS - 2005 Review | The Rides - CD Review | KWS - Live CD Review

(Originally Published on September 08, 2014)




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