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Kenny Wayne Shepherd - The Blues in Great Hands

Published 8 years ago on March 11, 2013

By Guitar Interactive Magazine

 

Fashions come and go but the Blues lives-on, spawning a succession of fabulous guitarists like Kenny Wayne Shepherd.

Levi Clay

Fashions come and go but the Blues lives-on, spawning a succession of fabulous guitarists like Kenny Wayne Shepherd. Stuart Bull meets the Strat-wielder familiarly abbreviated to just KWS. Levi Clay delivers a career profile.

Just when you think there can't be any more Blues players treading in the footsteps of players from Robert Johnson to Stevie Ray Vaughan, along comes another. Take Kenny Wayne Shepherd, for example. While in his homeland, the US, he's a huge deal, with scores of adoring fans, best selling albums, chart records, award nominations and his own signature Fender. For some reason, while in Europe and the UK he can sell out shows, he's still overlooked by all facets of media, which we at GI insist is a gross injustice - not just for Kenny, but for the endless number of Blues guitar lovers this side of the pond who may never have heard this superstar of the genre.

Born in Louisiana back in 1977, Shepherd picked up the guitar at a very young age, seven in his case. Being completely self taught (he's a non-reader), the young Kenny would sit down with his cheap Yamaha faux Strat and a cassette tape to studiously try to copy licks, a note at a time, by players like Muddy Waters, Albert Lee and Stevie Ray Vaughan.

The Stevie Ray influence cannot be ignored in Kenny's playing. In fact, that alone will be enough of a reason to run out and check this guy out. Your first point of call should be Kenny's cover of the classic Blues tune Backwater Blues, from 2011's How I Go. A great example of Kenny grooving along with a Texas shuffle feel before launching into a solo which would be perfectly at home on Texas Flood. That said. KWS is no SRV clone.

It was at the tender age of 13 that he got his first break, appearing with blind New Orleans Bluesman Bryan Lee. Prior to this Shepherd had had a hard time trying to get anyone to take him seriously, but as Bryan Lee later said, I think what did it was that I didn't see you, as a blind person I only heard you


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