Kenny Wayne Shepherd Band at The Festival Theatre was always going to be one of the main events at this year’s Edinburgh Jazz & Blues Festival, and this was the one show that many people had told me not to miss, and they were right. With a 90 minute set that included songs from the new album “The Traveller”, some from the back catalogue, and some classic Blues standards, Kenny Wayne Shepherd left no one in the audience in any doubt as to why he is regarded by so many people as one of the leading young blues musicians of his generation.
There is a lot about the sound and visual presentation of Kenny Wayne Shepherd and the band that reminds me of some of the great blues influenced rock’n roll’bands of the 1970s and 1980s, and I mean that as a compliment, not that the music is derivative, which it is not. On stage, the band are tight, slick, and know how to grab an audience’s attention from the first few minutes of their stage entrance. That ability to almost immediately have the whole theatre on their side was evident as the band played four songs from the their new album “The Traveller”, and songs like “I Want You and “Woman Like You” clearly show that Kenny Wayne Shepherd has another hit album to add to his list of accomplishments.
New blues based rock songs, more funkier sounds, slow classic Blues or whatever Kenny feels like playing, the results are always impressive with often dazzling speed (if the song suits) and always clean and sharp accuracy of playing mixed in with an ever changing style of playing. Add into this mix the fact that Kenny Wayne Shepherd is a slick and professional showman who is always giving his audience what they came to see and hear and it is easy to understand why so many songs got huge applause tonight.
The roots of Kenny’s music are obviously based in a love for some of the great Blues players and great songs of yesterday, so when the band turned their attention to Elmore James’s classic “Talk To Me Baby” (which Kenny has recorded with his side project band “The Rise”), the audience response was to, say the least, enthusiastic. There were similar responses also with Kenny’s versions of “Shame Shame Shame” and “I’m A King Bee”.
Kenny Wayne Shepherd has an impressive back catalogue of songs to bring to stage with him at any time, and a selection from that included “Diamonds and Gold” from the last album “Lay It Down Low”. Of course, much to the delight of the audience, “Blue on Black” was on tonight’s set list too.
On stage with Kenny Wayne Shepherd tonight were long-time member of 22 years, Noah Hunt (vocals and guitar), Scott Nelson (bass guitar), Chris Layton (drums) and Joe Krown (Keyboards).
Opening up this show for Kenny Wayne Shepherd, and giving Blues guitar fans a double treat, were the Matt Schofield Band. Matt Schofield, widely recognised as one of the most distinctive and innovative British blues guitarists, has also been admitted to the British Blues Awards Hall of Fame, and with a new album out, “Far As I can See”, the band were on impressive form for their set. The combination of Matt Schofield on guitar and Jonny Henderson on keyboards/organ defines for so many people those classic soulful Blues sounds and provided a perfect addition to this evening’s Blues music event.
Review by Tom King