(2019) The Traveler

Kenny Wayne Shepherd

... read moreKenny Wayne Shepherd arrived on the scene as a blues guitar hero at 18 to an overload of media hoopla and pressure. At 40, he has evolved from the blues-guitar-slinger ghetto and become a mature musician whose wide-angle vision embraces American roots music -- blues, rock, country, and soul/R&B -...

45′:36″ 10 Songs

1
Woman Like You
Kenny Wayne Shepherd
4:20
2
Long Time Running
Kenny Wayne Shepherd
4:11
3
I Want You
Kenny Wayne Shepherd
6:29
4
Tailwind
Kenny Wayne Shepherd
4:01
5
Gravity
Kenny Wayne Shepherd
3:43
6
We All Alright
Kenny Wayne Shepherd
5:31
7
Take It On Home
Kenny Wayne Shepherd
3:55
8
Mr. Soul
Kenny Wayne Shepherd
3:47
9
Better With Time
Kenny Wayne Shepherd
3:55
10
Turn To Stone
Kenny Wayne Shepherd
5:44
Released 31 May 2019, 2019 Mascot Label Group/Provogue

Review

Kenny Wayne Shepherd arrived on the scene as a blues guitar hero at 18 to an overload of media hoopla and pressure. At 40, he has evolved from the blues-guitar-slinger ghetto and become a mature musician whose wide-angle vision embraces American roots music -- blues, rock, country, and soul/R&B -- as an inseparable whole. While it's true that most of his albums have charted, his last two, Goin’ Home and Lay It on Down, have done better than all the others, placing well inside the Top 40. The Traveler is a direct aesthetic follow-up to Lay It on Down. Co-produced once more with Marshall Altman, it utilizes the same band (including uber-drummer Chris Layton and singer Noah Hunt). Recorded in Los Angeles over ten days, it offers eight new originals and two excellent covers. Shepherd takes a classic rock approach to blues, gritty old-school Southern funk and R&B, country and Americana. Opener "Woman Like You" is introduced by screaming organ, guitars, and horns. Hunt's vocal digs into gritty Southern funk in the vamp while the horns, arranged straight from the Muscle Shoals fakebook, soar to announce the choruses. While the guitar break is brief, it's dirty as hell. "Long Time Running" is dynamic, uproarious, blues-drenched soul with bleating horns and charging double-time drums, and Hunt's and Shepherd's voices are locked in the chorus as the track erupts with screaming lead guitar between verses. "Tailwind," co-written by Shepherd, Tia Sillers, and Mark Selby is a set highlight and a candidate for country radio with its strummed and layered acoustic guitar framing Hunt's vocal (which recalls Warren Zevon's in delivering a transcendent Americana melody kissed by tasteful horns and wrangling electric slide break. "Gravity" is a melodic pop love song with stunning harmonies and heartfelt lyrics. "We All Alright" is a crunchy rocker with a killer piano hook. Shepherd shares vocal responsibilities (on the chorus) with Hunt, who sings his ass off with Layton rocking harder than anywhere else on the set as the guitarist's fills scream in the margins. "Take It on Home" is a summery midtempo country rocker reminiscent of Marshall Tucker's "Can’t You See." Neil Young's "Mr. Soul" is delivered with rowdy aplomb, a smoking update with horns pushing Shepherd's guitar into the red. "Better with Time" is an excellent souls-blue stroll with glorious vocals. Shepherd's fills sound like a second lead vocalist. A read of Joe Walsh's "Turn to Stone" (modeled on the 1972 Barnstorm version) closes the set with a roar; the horns add more to the bottom end, leaving Shepherd's guitar wailing on stun. The Traveler continues Shepherd's trajectory of quality. The diversity in his musical approach, songwriting consistency, organic production, and passionate performances place it over and above anything else in his catalog to date. ~ Thom Jurek