Kenny Wayne Shepherd
Soon to visit the UK for live dates, Kenny talks to JLTT about his latest ‘influences’ album called ‘Goin’ Home’…
JLTT: Good Afternoon! Where are you today, mate?
KWS: Hey Pete, how you doin’ ? We’re in Louisiana today
OK. Last time, I was in Surrey, you were in Hawaii… on holiday with your kids and they’d got you up early ..the purpose of this chat is to talk about your latest album ‘Goin’ Home’. On Blues Matters, what we do is we often ask artists to let us have their top ten blues. You’ve done exactly that with this album haven’t you?
Well yeah ! Guess so..at least twelve on this one
I’ve got fifteen on this edition
Yeah that’s the full edition. I think there is going to be a regular edition with twelve and then a limited edition with the full fifteen.
Right. Well this one has ‘Can You Hear Me?’ as a bonus track. I was kind of always hoping that you and Noah would do Hendix’ ‘Gypsy Eyes’
Well, we didn’t do any Hendrix stuff because I’ve done some Hendrix songs in the past on other records. This one was specifically about traditional blues influences. Although, just FYI, we are on the Experience Hendrix tour in the States and we are doing a version of ‘Gypsy Eyes’.
You know my friend Ernie Isley, don’t you?
Yeah absolutely .
Ernie is the king to me. I love that man.
Yeah he’s fantastic…
Good. When you put this album together, I’m thinking because we talked about Muddy last time we chatted. You could have done twelve tracks of Muddy’s couldn’t you?
Oh yeah – for sure !. All of these guys, I could of done a whole record of each of their music. But obviously, I couldn’t do that with this particular album. I love these people’s music so much and they have so many great songs. But in the end, on this album… most of the time when people do an album of cover songs, they do one song by an artist. But on this record, I chose songs by each one of my influences. Then at the end, I just made the decision based on the songs themselves. I listened to the songs objectively
The thing is man, you’ve ended up with a couple of Albert King’s on here
There’s two Albert King’s, two Muddy Waters, two Freddie King’s but there’s one B.B. King.
That’s good. I was going to ask you about Warren Haynes because I’ve met him on Gov’t Mule tours and the guy is Mr Music isn’t he? He’s a fantastic character
(Sighs) Yeah he is. He’s one of the hardest working guys in the music business. I’ve known Warren for a long time, he actually played guitar on a few tracks from my third album
Yes, I have that one
He’s such a great guy. But we actually recorded that song ‘ Breaking Up’ because of Warren. We did some shows with my band and Gov’t Mule. We jammed on that song and it sounded so great that I called him and asked if he ever recorded it and he said he never recorded a studio version before. I asked him if he was ok with us doing it. He said ‘Let’s do it’ the reason why we cut that song.’
That’s cool. Now Robert Randolph burst on to the scene a few years ago.I think I was the first English reporter to track him down and talk to him on his very first visit. Before he even walked onstage, I was talking to him at Dingwalls and this guy is quite unique because he had only just heard his first Dylan song back then
Yeah. Robert is a talented guy and he has a unique sound. We have known each other a long time and have jammed together. Each one of the guest artists on this record brought something very unique
When you put this record together, this is what we would call a ‘labour of love’. In other words, it’s work but it’s work in the sense that you are having as much fun as you can get aren’t you?
Absolutely and I really think that this album is probably one of the most fun albums we’ve recorded. Could quite possibly of been the most fun so far. It was interesting for me, because I was revisiting all of this music from my childhood and it’s like the soundtrack of my life you know? It brought me back to being a kid, learning how to play guitar and listening to all of these songs in my living room. It was like this retrospective experience for me and that’s why I felt it was important to record this in Louisiana. That’s the whole reason for the title ‘Goin’ Home’, as I’m going back to my musical roots, but I’m also going back to where I grew up
But Kenny, it doesn’t sound dusty. It sounds like you’re living and breathing. Some kids will be hearing these tracks for the first time and you have to bear that in mind. I’ve been playing blues rock for so many years and eighteen year old kids come out of the audience and they go ‘What was the ‘Remington Ride’ number?’ I explain its Freddie King. They go out and buy the Best of Freddie King…
Wonderful ! – and that’s the point. With the songs on this album, I tried to choose ones that weren’t such obvious choices and the most mainstream song we did was ‘Born Under a Bad Sign’. But everything else, I tried to dig deeper into these people’s catalogues. You check out these artists and listen to everything they offer because you never know what jewel you might find
I think you’re right. What is it Kenny about that fourth Stevie Ray Vaughn album? It shows him absolutely playing out with that great keyboard player. I’m surprised that you didn’t do ‘Change It’.
Well we did ‘House’ and to vary it we linked in the guitar solo and we made it longer than the original. I start the solo playing tribute to the original solo and then I branch off and do my own thing before bringing it back and ending it the same way he ended his solo. But the song itself, is pretty much in my opinion, a lot of his music is as good as you can get. So there’s not a lot that can be done to improve it
I saw his first ever visit to London and he fell out with David Bowie having played on ‘Let’s Dance’. Bowie said could tour with him and then he didn’t let him. So he went sod it and he bought the trio with Chris to Victoria, London playing ‘Lennie’ solo at the end of the night . That was a memorable night. I guess you need things like that to happen in life to light that fire under you don’t you?
Yeah. I think so. Also, I think it’s exploring all these songs and not just creating another Kenny Wayne Shepherd album. There’s a lot of creativity as well; there’s the Rides, this album, producing other artists’ album I’ve got a lot of different things going on that allow me to be creative in many different ways
Well Barry says to me ‘You be nice to Kenny Wayne. He’s a great guy!’ (Laughs)
I had a great meet up with Stephen and he was having a bad day before. But that chat was great. I will make sure you get a Sargeant t-shirt when you are next here. I will try and get to the Islington show. To what extent, are you going to feature some of these album cuts in your touring set?
I haven’t put the set together yet but we are definitely going to be doing… the thing is when we come over there; we haven’t extensively toured over there until a few years ago. So a lot of fans in Europe are gonna wanna hear songs from previous albums. But we will feature a lot of this because we are there because we have a new record out. It’s gonna be a good balance so people can hear a bit of everything
That’s good and it’s what Warren has to do and what Taj Mahal has to do. It’s the right way of approaching those shows. How’s Chris?
Chris is great and he’s still every bit of an incredible drummer as he ever was. I love him like a brother man and I’ve known him for a long time
I love that ‘Double Trouble’ album that they made where Susan does the Zeppelin track….
Yeah and I played guitar on that one !.
Now Tony Franklin is ex-Jimmy Page isn’t he?
Yeah ex-Jimmy Page – The Firm -and Paul Rodgers
So he’s right in the transcendental base world of your music really?
Yeah but he does have as much of a blues rock background as I do or Chris Layton does. He has played with serious musicians that come from that area of traditional blues rock. He’s a great addition to this band
Yeah I think so. He’s one of those players who knows what to leave out
Yeah one of the cool things on this record, is that he usually plays electric bass but I actually got him to play upright bass so that was cool.
Is that was gives it that Willie Dixon touch occasionally because I was wondering?
Yeah I would say so
Ok man that was puzzling me. Riley Osbourn, I have seen him play in Willie Nelson’s band
He’s played with loads of people in his career
Is there any video to go with this as I’m wondering if you filmed any of these sessions?
Yeah we did. There’s like a three minute EPK video that they will be posting up soon. I don’t know if we will be releasing a full-length video
Yeah. I find this a lot, when you find yourself playing a song that you loved in your teens or twenties, you find when you play it time has taken your fingers into other directions and you just don’t find yourself duplicating that record. You do play your own thing
Yeah that’s the goal.
Your psyche won’t let you reproduce that original sound. Don’t you find this when you play live? I take the theme of a song like Miles did and then you are playing this and that, it’s your own
I think that if you are musician who likes the creative process, naturally if you play it long enough, you are going to be compelled to try and experiment and interject some individuality into it. That’s how we evolve as musicians and create an original sound
That whole notion is Kenny Wayne Shepherd. That’s what giving you a career. The Rides think you are the greatest because you’re unselfish
Stephen is like a big brother to me, Pete and he treats me very gently and with lots of love the same as Barry. The thing is, I really appreciated that these people wanted to be involved with me
Thanks for the chat I really appreciate it. It’s a lovely sounding record and it’s got a real buzz
Try to come to the London show ? I would like that very much.
The Kenny Wayne Shepherd Band’s new studio album ‘Goin Home’ is released by Mascot Label Group/Provogue
For tickets and more information visit www.kennywayneshepherd.net
Footnote : I did go to the Islington show and left Kenny a John Lee Hooker album where he is backed by….the Muddy Waters Band ! It is ‘Live At The Café Au Go Go’. .Apparently Kenny didn’t have it