If you live in LA and simply can’t take the time to drive through Interstate 10 and hit the juke joints in Texas, Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama, the next best alternative is to take in an evening at the Canyon Club with Kenny Wayne Shepherd and opening act Tinsley Ellis. The 3+ hour evening brought the best of rootsy blues Southern Style.
Leading a tight trio, blues vet Ellis sand with a rough and gruff voice, teaming it with a guitar picking style that was a deft mix of taste and well timed chops. The material varied between boogies like “Cut You Loose” and down home material like Freddie King’s “Double Eyed Whammy.” Smoky low ceilinged delights abounded!
While comparatively young at 40 years old, Kenny Wayne Shepherd is in the class of guitar vets simply by the fact that his career began at the tender age of 18. With his swinging team of Chris Layton/dr, Devin McCormick/b, Joe Krown/key-org and Noah Hunt/voc-g, Shepherd took the packed house through material that ranged from his earliest pieces right up to his most recent release, the hard hitting Lay It On Down, and as he said during the set, “the blues is the foundation of everything we do.”
And what they do is done with excellence and style. Opening with stompers such as “Never Looking Back” and “True Lies,” the mix of Hunt’s Paul Rodgers/Jim Dewar-styled voice with the leader’s searing guitar work brought out hints of vintage Free, melding blues and scintillating metal. Shepherd’s own voice, with dashes of a country western roadhouse growl, made you feel as if you were in West Texas with the 50s-styled “House Is Rockin’” or on the shuffling take of Elmore James vintage “Talk To Me Baby.” Even better was when the two harmonized as on the folksy ballad from the new album “Hard Lesson” or the swampy “Baby Got Love.”
As for Shepherd’s guitar work, at times his strings slithered like Paul Kossoff during “Down For Love” while his searing wah wahing on “Diamonds and Gold” had colors of Hendrix as well as his own patented touch. As the band stretched out on material such as “Heat of The Sun” the blazing blues mixed humming fog from Krown’s keys and Layton’s lithe cymbal work caressing the groove as Shepherd delivered colors ranging from vintage Wes Montgomery to earthy Chicago on the South .
Guitar strings cried for mercy as Shepherd bent and stretched them on the slower blues “BB” and begged for relief as the team wound up the evening with indigo classics like “King Bee” and “Voodoo Child.” Closing out the evening, Shepherd said “there’s honesty in the blues, and we play it from the heart.” The blues blood was circulating well Thursday night at the Canyon!
Upcoming shows at The Canyon Club, etc include Shepherd at The Rose 03/03, Manhattan Transfer 03/09, Jim Messina 03/15&18, Wishbone Ash 04/20