Not many guitar players can get away with 3 names, it takes a special kind of player to pull it off. Like his hero Stevie Ray Vaughn before him, Kenny Wayne Shepherd proudly wears his three names across his catalogue of music.
Since bursting onto the scene in the mid-90s, Kenny Wayne has put out album after album of guitar-heavy, Texas-tinged blues rock. He wears his influences on his sleeve and that’s ok because he always puts a spin on things that is distinctly his own.
I’ve been a fan of Kenny for a long time and I’ve spent hours jamming along to his records and trying to capture that incredible Stratocaster tone he produces. His latest offering, The Traveler is no exception.
From the first listen of opening track Woman Like You, I’m hooked. Kenny always starts his albums with an up tempo rocker and this track stands strong to kick off proceedings. Sticking with the hard and driving feel, Long Time Running keeps my head bobbing. Vocalist Noah Hunt sounds on top form and Kenny’s guitar player is just excellent as always. I don’t think I’ve heard this guy play a bad note.
From listening to his back catalogue and seeing him live, I always feel his playing takes on another level in some of his more spacious and slower songs. The third track I Want You has a long guitar solo, but who cares? When someone is playing like that, it can go on for as long as they want it to. It’s full of soul, heart and fire.
Tailwind and Gravity follow up with a dip in tempo to a nice, chilled acoustic lead section of the album. It might feel like the band are taking a breather here, but these songs still kick some serious ass. The chorus of Tailwind was just written to be sung by a room full of music lovers. Gravity is just full of gorgeous melodies and a guitar solo that could make a grown man cry. How he coaxes those notes from a guitar no one will ever know.
I feel that this album offers a bit more head bobbing rockers than the last album from Kenny and co. We All Alright keeps us thundering along with it’s thumping drums and huge chorus.
Take It On Home is one for the lovers in the house. A tender ode to coming home to the place and person you love. Kenny spends a lot of the year on the road so you can certainly believe every word he sings on this track. And yes, I do keep saying it… but wow… what a guitar solo!
Mr. Soul might sound like a familiar riff. It’s very much a Stones influence. I mean, it’s from the right era. Originally written in 1967 by Neil Young for Buffalo Springfield, this riff has given listeners over the years many hours of ahem… Satisfaction.
Every album has got to have one song that makes the listener say “that’s about me!”. It’s that feeling of relating that keeps us coming back to our favourite tracks. Better With Time for me, is that track. It’s an ode to growing up, loving, losing and learning. Like a fine wine, life sometimes gets better with age as we grow older and wiser. Kenny and the band have captured that exact feeling.
The album closes with the Joe Walsh penned Turn To Stone, this has all the southern stomp you need to get on down. Infectious grooves fill the song before the wah-drenched lead guitar epic that kicks in before the second verse. This is only a short lead burst though; Kenny is saving his ammo for the big shootout in the middle of the song. From 2 minutes and 10 seconds in, the vocals are out. We’re reminded firmly why we came here, to listen to some damn fine guitar playing. For the next 2 minutes, we belong to Kenny Wayne Shepherd as he takes us on a journey through loud and quiet, up and down, fast and slow before bringing the album to a crashing close.
The Traveler has taken me on a journey. Pack your bags, it’s your turn now.
Buy The Traveler Here
Author: Leigh Fuge