Self-taught blues guitar prodigy and platinum-selling artist Kenny Wayne Shepherd began playing music in earnest after seeing Stevie Ray Vaughan in 1984, when he was seven.
“It was a life-changing experience,” Shepherd says. “That was the day the fire was lit inside of me.”
Already steeped in his father’s massive music collection, Shepherd loved the blues right off and made it his mission at that young age to play and positively affect people through music, the way that Vaughan affected him.
Over the last 25 years, he’s done exactly that with signature songs like “Blue on Black” and acclaimed albums under his own name and with the Kenny Wayne Shepherd Band, often collaborating with vocalist Noah Hunt, drummer Chris Layton and others.
Shepherd kicks his music into high gear with the band’s latest album,
Lay It On Down, which debuted at the top spot on Nielsen SoundScan’s Top Blues chart earlier this month.
Lay It On Down reachers deeper into a rock and Americana sound than most of Shepherd’s previous work, infusing his effortless licks into a rollicking pastiche of roots music.
“All the different genres you hear throughout the record is all stuff I grew up listening to,” Shepherd says. “I chose to go down the path of the blues when I was learning how to play guitar as a kid. That’s my first love, but all of these genres are closely related. It’s natural for that stuff to find its way into my music.”
While Shepherd has touched on rock and country music sporadically before, this new album, largely recorded live and straight to analog tape, is easily the most “classic rock”–sounding record of Shepherd’s career. It’s also widely regarded by critics and fans as one of his best yet.
Currently on a massive tour in support of the album, the Kenny Wayne Shepherd Band perform in the North Bay next month as part of the Russian River Jazz & Blues Festival.
Shepherd’s exceptional guitar work shines live, where he stretches out onstage with fiery solos and feel-good grooves.
“The mindset is bringing something positive to the people through music,” Shepherd says. “Regardless of the political climate or whatever nonsense is going on in the world today, everybody has their own personal things that they’re dealing with, and music is universally something that helps people heal one way or another through difficult times.”