"It was definitely an emotional experience, and it was the most fun I've ever had making a record," Kenny Wayne Shepherd says of his aptly-titled new album,Goin' Home, scheduled for release May 19, 2014 on Concord Records. "I felt like I was retracing my steps back to where it all began."
Two decades into a recording career that began when he was 16, Kenny Wayne Shepherd has built an enviable resume as an accomplished recording artist, a riveting live performer and one of the most talented and distinctive guitarists of his generation. He's also emerged as one of the contemporary blues world's leading lights, helping to spearhead a widespread revival of interest in the blues.
Shepherd has sold millions of albums worldwide and received five GRAMMY®nominations and two Billboard Music Awards, as well as a pair of Orville H. Gibson awards, the Blues Foundation's Keeping The Blues Alive award and two Blues Music awards. He's had six #1 blues albums and a string of #1 mainstream rock singles, and his acclaimed CD/documentary project 10 Days Out: Blues from the Backroads was the top-selling blues album of 2007.
Having already set an impressive standard for creative vision and world-class musicianship, Shepherd delivers his most personal project to date with Goin' Home. Recorded in an 11-day whirlwind in his hometown of Shreveport, Louisiana, the raw, righteous release finds Shepherd revisiting a dozen of the vintage blues classics that originally inspired him to pick up the guitar and pursue a life in music, approaching the material with an intensity that affirms his deep connection to these time-tested classics.
On Goin Home, Shepherd's sharp interpretive skills and sublime guitar work shine on his renditions of tunes originally popularized by such blues icons as B.B. King, Albert King, Freddie King, Muddy Waters, Magic Sam, Johnny "Guitar" Watson, Stevie Ray Vaughan,Buddy Guy and Junior Wells. Shepherd's memorable readings of such beloved standards as "I Love the Life I Live," "The House Is Rockin'," "Breaking Up Somebody's Home" and "Born Under aBad Sign," along with some lesser-known tunes drawn deep from within the catalogues of his heroes. Shepherd's new interpretations are faithful to the spirit of the originals, while serving as vibrant expressions of Shepherd's musical soul.
Goin' Homefirst began to take shape when Shepherd decided to take advantage of an 11-day gap in his touring schedule. Rather than use the time to take a break, he rerouted his tour bus to Shreveport and headed for Blade Studios, run by Shepherd's hometown friendand respected drummer/producer Brady Blade, renowned for his work with the likes of Emmylou Harris, Steve Earle and Dave Matthews.Armed with an encyclopedic knowledge of American Blues, Shepherd and his band—singer Noah Hunt, ex-Stevie Ray Vaughan and Double Trouble drummer Chris Layton, former Firm bassist Tony Franklin and keyboardist Riley Osbourn, whose voluminous credits include work with B.B. King, Willie Nelson and Jerry Jeff Walker—cut 22 songs, with no studio trickery and minimal overdubbing.
Also lending their talents on Goin' Homeare several talented friends who shared Shepherd's enthusiasm for the project's back-to-basics ethos. Those guests include fellow guitar icons Joe Walsh, Warren Haynes, Keb' Mo' and Robert Randolph, longtime friend Ringo Starr, Fabulous Thunderbirds frontman Kim Wilson, the Rebirth Brass Band and co-producer Blade's father, Pastor Brady Blade Sr., who lends a bracing dose of preaching to Shepherd's version of Bo Diddley's ""You Can't Judge aBook by the Cover."
The same deeply-ingrained passion for the blues that powers Goin' Home has driven Kenny Wayne Shepherd ever since he first discovered the music and taught himself to play guitar at the age of seven, learning classic blues tunes by meticulously studying his father's collection of blues albums.At 16 years old, he signed his first record deal andburst onto the national scenewith the release of his 1995 debut album Ledbetter Heights, which produced the radio hits "Deja Voodoo," "Born with aBroken Heart" and "Shame, Shame, Shame." His relentless touring and success on rock radio helped to drive the album to Platinum sales status. His 1998 sophomore effort Trouble Is… also went Platinum, yielding such radio hits as "Blue on Black," "True Lies" and "Somehow, Somewhere, Someway." 1999's Live On spawned the radio hits "In 2 Deep", "Shotgun Blues" and "Last Goodbye."
2004's The Place You're In was followed by 2007's ambitious 10 Days Out: Blues from the Backroads, for which Shepherd and his band traveled throughout the American South to record with such vintage blues greats as B.B. King, Clarence "Gatemouth" Brown, Hubert Sumlin, Pinetop Perkins and David "Honeyboy" Edwards on their home turf.2010 saw the release of Shepherd's long-awaited first live album, Live! In Chicago, recorded at Chicago's House of Blues during the all-star Legends tour and featuring guest appearances by such blues legends as Hubert Sumlin and Willie "Big Eyes" Smith. The live disc debuted at #1 on Billboard's Blues chart, as did 2011's How I Go. In 2013, Shepherd further expanded his musical horizons by teaming with veteran rockers Stephen Stills and Barry Goldberg to form The Rides, whose first album Can't Get Enough helped to expand Shepherd's audience as well as his musical resume.
Shepherd predicts that the lessons he learned in making Goin' Homeare likely to influence his approach to record-making in the future. "We had so much fun doing it this way that it never felt like work," he asserts.
"As an artist I feel it’s appropriate to make a record that feels right at that time, whether it’s a rock record or a straight blues album, or something in between."Shepherd concludes, "Trying different things is how you evolve, as a musician and as a person. And in the process of that, you figure out what works for you and what gets you inspired."