KENNY WAYNE SHEPHERD - 10 Days Out [Blues From The Backroads] (2006) & Live! In Chicago (2010)
10 Days Out may well be Kenny Wayne Shepherd's most important and intriguing album, even though the guitarist is hardly the featured artist on any of these tracks, working instead more as a sideman and facilitator for the impressive cast of venerable blues players who get a chance to shine here. Make no mistake about it, this recording belongs to such senior citizens as Henry Townsend, Etta Baker, Pinetop Perkins, and Henry Gray, and Shepherd's presence (and the presence of Stevie Ray Vaughan's Double Trouble rhythm section of bassist Tommy Shannon and drummer Chris Layton) simply helps to focus the attention on these veteran blues players. Shepherd embarked on a ten-day journey into the American South in 2004 with a documentary film crew, a portable recording studio, and Double Trouble as a house band in an effort to catch the blues in its natural habitat of living rooms, kitchens, porches, back yards, and local watering holes, and the performances that resulted are priceless. Here is one-armed harp player Neal Pattman and blind guitarist Cootie Stark turning in a joyous, ramshackle version of "Prison Blues." A little later, Stark delivers further on a delightful song called "U-Haul," complete with a marvelous improvised rap over the tune's run-out coda. Here, too, is the then-96-year-old Henry Townsend turning in a poignant "Tears Came Rollin' Down." Etta Baker, then 93, shows that age hadn't slowed her as a guitarist at all as she delivers an elegant "Knoxville Rag." Shepherd wisely stays in the background on cut after cut, allowing these amazing musical treasures to unfold naturally and without intrusive elements. There are absolutely no hotshot guitar histrionics anywhere on this disc, which speaks to Shepherd's sincere vision for this project. He's after the preservation of blues history with 10 Days Out, and as if to underscore that aim, five of the album's participants (Neal Pattman, Cootie Stark, Gatemouth Brown, George "Wild Child" Butler, and Etta Baker) passed away before the album and concurrent documentary film were finally completed and released in 2007. Shepherd's name may be above the title, but he knows full well to whom this album belongs, and to his immense credit, those are the voices he lets speak the loudest.
First off, Kenny Wayne Shepherd was 33 years old at the release of this album, so he’s not a kid playing hot guitar anymore, he’s a grown man doing it. And he does play a hot lead guitar that, in a nutshell, is what he does. But over the years he’s also learned that the blues isn’t just about blazing lead licks, it’s also about letting the song say its say and on Live! In Chicago he does that. This is a concert full of songs and not just a bunch of guitar leads broken up by someone singing for a bit. Shepherd is also fully aware of the history of the blues and he honors some of his heroes here by playing with blues legends like Hubert Sumlin, Willie “Big Eyes” Smith, Bryan Lee and Buddy Flett and he doesn’t step all over them with his guitar playing he supports them. The concert grew out of the tour Shepherd put together in support of 10 Days Out: Blues from the Backroads project, a DVD/CD documentary that featured Shepherd traveling around the country on a ten day trip interviewing and playing with icons from the blues world, including the surviving members of Muddy Waters' and Howlin' Wolf's bands, making this show, recorded at the House of Blues in Chicago, a kind of culmination. It’s all crisp and sharp, full of fine keyboard work by Riley Osbourn and, of course, stinging guitar from Shepherd, but there’s a lot of love and respect here, too. This isn’t just about the blues it’s about living to play it. The whole disc is really of a piece, but among the highlights are a jaunty version of B.B. King's "Sell My Monkey," the blues ballad “Deju Voodoo,” and the scorching take on Slim Harpo's “I’m a King Bee” which closes things out. This isn’t a live album from some teenaged savant it’s an album from a grown man proud and honored to be playing the blues with some of his heroes. It also rocks.
...new KWS album soon...May 31
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