Despite the fact that he is only in his mid-thirties, Kenny Wayne Shepherd has already had a 20-year career in the blues, since he started as a blues guitar prodigy at only 16. So for Goin’ Home, his eighth album, he decided to choose 12 of the blues classics by artists he most admires and record them, including performances with six very special guests. “It was definitely an emotional experience, and it was the most fun I’ve ever had making a record,” Shepherd said in the press release.
It’s a lot of fun for the listener, too.
Of course, the guitar and Noah Hunt’s vocals are top-quality throughout. Those listeners who are familiar with Shepherd’s career and Hunt’s would expect no less. The album also benefits from excellent keyboard work from band member Riley Osbourn.
From the opening cover of Freddie King’s “Palace of the King” with The Rebirth Brass Band, the party is on. Every song is spot-on. The band also provides fantastic horns for “Born Under a Bad Sign.”
The guests add extra verve to the mix. Unlike on some projects of this sort, each guest fits perfectly with the song on which he or she performs.
First up is Kim Wilson of The Fabulous Thunderbirds on “I Love the Life I Live.” Warren Haynes adds his talents to “Breaking Up Somebody’s Home” and Ringo Starr guests on the rip-roaring “Cut You Loose.” “Still a Fool” features Robert Randolph and a lesser-known but highly effective guest, Pastor Brady Blade, Sr., who helps out on “You Can’t Judge a Book By the Cover,” which is guaranteed to get you jumping!Shepherd is much more proficient as a guitarist than he is as a vocalist, although he certainly can sing, and he proves it here. Shepherd obviously has a great time and does a very good job on “The House Is Rockin'” and “Boogie Man.” “The House Is Rockin'” is such a delightful sing-along song, and Shepherd does Stevie Ray Vaughan proud on this cover.
These songs could make it onto any list of the “top 12 blues songs everyone should know,” and this album is a marvelous way to get acquainted with them if you aren’t already, as Shepherd, his band and his guests all come together to provide an exhilarating blues experience. The CD was recorded in Shepherd’s hometown of Shreveport, Louisiana, so he really was “Goin’ Home” both musically and literally. It was done in just 11 days too, so that helps explain the spontaneous feel of the music.
Everything about this album is excellent. Everyone who loves electric blues will love it.
Photo credit: Wikimedia Commons/Rafael Resende