Thursday April 17, 2014
Kenny Wayne Shepherd has never been accused of being overly prolific in the recording studio, the guitarist releasing but two studio albums over the past decade. He's been busy honing his craft, touring with blues legends like Pinetop Perkins, Henry Townsend, and Hubert Sumlin and delving deeper into the blues than your average young blues-rock fretburner. Then there was last year's collaboration with Stephen Stills and Barry Goldberg as the Rides. Shepherd comes full circle on May 20, 2014 when Concord Records releases Goin' Home, a collection of classic blues covers as only KWS can deliver.
His eighth album overall, Goin' Home is the first to be recorded in Shepherd's hometown of Shreveport, Louisiana. Working at Blade Studios with album co-producer Brady Blade, Shepherd recorded with an all-star line-up that included longtime band frontman Noah Hunter, bassist Tony Franklin (The Firm), keyboardist Riley Osbourn, and drummer Chris Layton (Double Trouble). Among the classic covers performed by Shepherd and his crew are songs by Albert King ("Born Under A Bad Sign"), Bo Diddley ("You Can't Judge A Book By Its Cover"), John Lee Hooker ("Boogie Man"), and Muddy Waters ("Still A Fool") as well as songs from Magic Sam, Stevie Ray Vaughan, Junior Wells, and Freddie King.
Shepherd and his band weren't alone in the studio, either, joined by friends of the guitarist like Joe Walsh, Warren Haynes, and Kim Wilson of the Fabulous Thunderbirds, among others. "I dug through tons and tons of songs and artists' catalogues, trying to find songs that I thought would be right for this record," says Shepherd in a press release for Goin' Home. "That brought back all these distinct memories of sitting in the living room in front of the record player and cassette deck as a kid and learning how to play this material."
The band recorded Goin' Home in just 11 days, putting a total of 22 songs on tape before whittling them down to a dozen for the album's release. "We did it the way records used to be recorded," Shepherd explains. "Everything, including the vocals, was basically cut live in the studio with everybody in the same room, with the instruments all bleeding together onto two-inch tape. I wanted to record these songs in the same spirit in which they were originally recorded, so the 11-day time frame was self-imposed. That put pressure on everybody to get it right the first time, and I had the utmost confidence in everyone's abilities and knowledge."
"This is a homecoming in more ways than one," says Shepherd, "I felt like I was retracing my steps and reliving all the good times that I've had in my life because of this music. And hopefully, that amount of happiness comes through on the album."
Photo courtesy Concord Records
Tuesday April 15, 2014
Well, who would have expected the upset we're seeing on the blues chart for the week ending April 19, 2014? Robert Cray's In My Soul album made its big debut this week, knocking Beth Hart and Joe Bonamassa out of the top spot and claiming number one for his own bad self! Although I guessed that Cray's latest would perform well, it looks like quite a few fans (myself included) pre-ordered the album, or bought it on the day of its release, so it hit the chart high. I haven't received my copy yet, so I don't know how good it is, but it's Robert Cray so I have high expectations. Hopefully it will have the legs to stay in the Top Ten for a while!
The week's other big debut comes from our old friend George Thorogood and a new compilation album called 10 Great Songs, 20th Century Masters: The Millennium Collection or something like that. It's really hard to get the story behind this one...the budget-priced anthology was released on April Fool's Day and features pretty much the same "10 great songs" as every other Thorogood "best of" album, including 2010's 10 Great Songs CD. By my count, there are ten various Thorogood anthology albums currently for sale on Amazon, eight of them released over the past ten years. How long is the label going to keep flogging this horse?
If the label had put as much effort into promoting the guitarist's excellent 2120 South Michigan Avenue album as they do in marketing "best of" albums, well...let just say that Thorogood's Icon at least includes a new song. There are a lot of new releases this week, none of which are from the talented guitarist from Delaware, the list dominated by a trio of albums from the Delta Groove label featuring harp master Bob Corritore, guitarist Shane Dwight, and sax-blaster Terry Hanck. Throw in albums by singer Jim Byrnes and harmonica wizard Mark Hummel, and you'll have to work overtime this week to buy 'em all!
Here are this week's Billboard Top Ten blues albums, ranked by sales:
10. Hugh Laurie - Didn't It Rain (Warner Brothers Records)
9. Joe Bonamassa - An Acoustic Evening at the Vienna Opera House (J&R Adventures)
8. Paul Rodgers - The Royal Sessions (429 Records)
7. John Nemeth - Memphis Grease (Blue Corn Music)
6. Tommy Castro & the Painkillers - The Devil You Know (Alligator Records)
5. Tedeschi Trucks Band - Made Up Mind (Sony Masterworks)
4. George Thorogood - 10 Great Songs, 20th Century Masters (Capitol Records)
3. Gary Clark, Jr. - Blak and Blu (Warner Brothers)
2. Beth Hart & Joe Bonamassa - Live In Amsterdam (J&R Adventures)
1. Robert Cray - In My Soul (Provogue Records)
New releases this week: Bob Corritore's Taboo (Delta Groove); Hans Theessink's Songs From The Southland (Blue Groove Records); Jim Byrnes' St. Louis Times (Black Hen Music); Mark Hummel's The Hustle Is Really On (Electro-Fi Records); Shane Dwight's This Home (Delta Groove); Terry Hanck's Gotta Bring It On Home To You (Delta Groove)
Photo of Terry Hanck's Gotta Bring It On Home To You courtesy Delta Groove
Friday April 11, 2014
What are you doing next month...specifically Saturday, May 17th and Sunday, May 18th, 2014? Might I suggest that if you're anywhere in Southern California, you plan on spending the weekend in lovely Dana Point, roughly halfway between Los Angeles and San Diego? That's the date of this year's Doheny Blues Festival, to be held at the 62-acre Doheny State Beach park; the event a raucous affair that includes music on three stages, an international food court, microbrew sampling, and a "Vendor Village" featuring over 50 unique booths.
This year's Doheny Blues Festival is the 17th occurrence of the annual festival, and it offers what might well be the best musical line-up to date. Saturday's headliners include Chicago blues legend Buddy Guy and Southern rock & blues legend Gregg Allman, but the line-up also includes a bunch of great performers like the Mannish Boys, Kid Ramos, Smokin' Joe Kubek and Bnois King, and John Nemeth with the Bo-Keys, among others.
Sunday's roster of talent is equally impressive, from headliners like Gov't Mule, the Doobie Brothers, and the James Cotton Blues Band to mid-card performers like Ruthie Foster and Keb Mo' to Eric Sardinas, Vintage Trouble, and others. If I won the lottery, I'd be hopping a plane and heading out to Cali that weekend. Check the Doheny Blues Festival website for more details.
Buddy Guy photo courtesy Blind Raccoon
Thursday April 10, 2014
Walter Trout is facing the fight of his life, yet he's still thinking of his fans. In spite of his recent illness and hospital stay, the legendary blues-rock guitarist has been hard at work finishing up a new album to celebrate the 25th anniversary of his solo career. On June 10th, 2014 Provogue Records will release Trout's The Blues Came Callin', a twelve-song celebration of life in the face of mortality. Ten of the tracks are new Trout originals, one is a J.B. Lenoir cover, and the other was penned by British blues-rock legend (and Trout's former bandleader) John Mayall specifically for the album.
The Blues Came Callin' was recorded throughout 2013, whenever the guitarist was in between tour dates, and while he often struggled in the face of his illness, Trout found playing for people to be helpful. In a press release for the new album, Trout says, "to play my music for people has become even more important to me. When I think about looking out into the crowds of people and connecting with everyone on a soul level, and sharing the experience of music with them, this is what keeps me fighting to get back: My family and my music is my lifeline. These days, it means more to me than ever before."
Also on the horizon for the popular bluesman is an official biography co-written by Trout and noted British music journalist Henry Yates (full disclosure: Yates is my editor at The Blues magazine). Titled Rescued From Reality - The Life and Times of Walter Trout, the book features previously unpublished stories from Trout's 40+ years in the business, including his early struggles and impoverishment while trying to get started in music; the hard-partying years spent playing with heavyweights like Canned Heat and John Mayall's Bluesbreakers; and his success in kicking drugs and alcohol to the curb and launching his successful solo career in 1989. Trout is a fascinating talent, and a heck of a nice guy, so the bio should please his many fans around the world.
Keep in mind, though, that Walter is still suffering from a life-threatening disease and badly needs a liver transplant in order to return to health. He's lost over 100 pounds during the past few months, and while his once-imposing stature has diminished, his spirit and creativity remain unconquered. Both his medical and living expenses have skyrocketed, however, while he remains sidelined and unable to perform live (and thus earn money to support his family).
An online fundraiser has been launched to cover Trout's ongoing expenses, and you can visit his page at YouCaring.com to make a donation. If you'd rather donate by check, you may send it to Walter Trout, P.O. Box 246, Huntington Beach CA 92648 and your donation will be manually added to the online total. With roughly a month left to go (as of this writing), the fundraiser has achieved 70% of its recently-adjusted $250,000 goal, so every penny helps.
Photo courtesy Provogue Records