Kenny Wayne Shepherd – Live! In Chicago (CD review)

Kenny Wayne Shepherd Band – Live! In Chicago (Roadrunner)

When Kenny Wayne Shepherd first came on the scene, he was somewhat of a novelty…a mere 17 years old at the time of his debut CD.  Now, at 33, he’s the same age Clapton was when he released Slow Hand.  In other words, he ain’t no youngster anymore.  Live! In Chicago finds him visiting the birthplace of electric blues, and digging into the city’s rich heritage, bringing several living legends to join him onstage.

He’s got a monster band: Noah Hunt has always been the best interpreter of Shepherd’s songs (he sang on the smash “Blue on Black”), while bassist Tommy Shannon and drummer Chris Layton, who played with both Johnny Winter and Stevie Ray Vaughan, prove that they can still bring the heat as a rhythm section.  The disc opens with four smokin’ tunes from the KWS catalog, all in the blues-rock vein. For the next eight tracks,

Shepherd is joined by blues legends, who get two songs each.  Buddy Flett, who’s from Shepherd’s hometown in Louisiana, has the best voice, as he growls on “Sell My Monkey.”  Other guests include harmonica player Willie Smith, who backed Muddy Waters; Hubert Sumlin, who was Howlin’ Wolf’s guitarist; and Bryan Lee, who helped Shepherd get started in the music business.

While it’s gracious of him to share the spotlight with these blues pioneers, there is no doubt that Kenny Wayne Shepherd is the dominant force in these recordings, whipping the audience into a frenzy with his searing solos time and again.  Live! In Chicago shows a guitarist at the peak of his powers. –Tony Peters