Kenny Wayne Shepherd Lays In On Down
In 1995, I heard about some 16-year blues guitar player who was making some news. I kept hearing about the next Stevie Ray Vaughan. I checked out Kenny Wayne Shepherd and he was the real deal. He blew me away. I’ve followed most of his career which has included pure blues, blues rock and edgier rock. His newest CD, Lay It On Down, continues his stellar guitar work.
Kenny Wayne Shepherd has grown and matured, and his songs and guitar playing reflect it. And, this includes developing his singing voice. He’s got an incredible singer, Noah Hunt, who’s been with him since his second CD. They complement each other nicely. Having Stevie Ray Vaughan’s drummer Chris Layton in the band just as long doesn’t hurt either. Rounding out the band is Kevin McCormick on bass and Jim McGorman on keyboard.
With Lay It On Down, Shepherd offers a wide range of styles. It’s all grounded in the blues, but it branches out into rock, country and even a little R&B. The focus is on the songs. And, by that I mean that the songs drive the performance. While he can shred with the best guitar players in the world, his solos here fit the songs. There’s no guitar hero self indulgence here. Every note matters. That’s not to say that it’s a guitar light CD. It’s very much guitar driven, and Shepherd’s guitar playing definitely shines.
The band recorded the songs together with each member playing. Not only does that give the album a live feel, but it afforded the band the freedom to keep things loose and let the performances takes shape as they played.
The CD gets off to a rocking start with “Baby Got Gone” and “Diamonds and Gold.” “Nothing But the Night” has a 70’s vibe and a solid vocal from Hunt. The title track is an acoustic ballad and might be the best song of the album. Other highlights include “Down for Love,” “How Low Can You Go” and “Ride of Your Life.”
One critique of the album is that a few songs could use a little more backing sound. The songs feel a little flat in some places. Also, the lyrics come off a little bitter in some songs. Shepherd must have gone through a breakup, with songs like “How Low Can You Go” and “Hard Lesson Learned.”
These are minor points though, as the album as a whole is one of Kenny Wayne Shepherd’s strongest. If you’re a fan of bluesy rock and roll and incredible guitar playing, you should check out this CD.
Buy: Lay It On Down