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Kenny Wayne Shepherd...* 8/13/99 Conord, CA.

Kenny at Concord Pavilion
......Whether you prefer his style or not, Shepherd was unquestionably the master of the blues. Charging onto the stage, long hair flying, for his one-hour set, Shepherd exuded greater authority than one would have imagined the once-shy blues-kid could muster. Plunging first into the instrumental "Trouble Is . . ." Shepherd was fearless, striding to the edge of the stage and engaging the audience as he played. Joined on stage by vocalist Noah Hunt, he cranked out the funky "Somehow, Somewhere, Some Way." Throughout the set, there was real pleasure in watching the interplay between the two frontmen, who are longtime friends. Hunt, as dark and sturdy as Shepherd is blond and slight, has a big voice that he uses to great effect, weaving it in and out of Shepherd's riffs. Shepherd is ahead of the pack when it comes to songwriting. Jonny Lang has obvious potential but Shepherd, now a venerable 22, has written some killer tunes, including the show-stopping instrumental "Blue on Black," and "Slow Ride," both of which got airplay. He does not sing, except for some backup vocals, but singing might get in the way of his extraordinary solo flights. Borrowing from blues-rock greats like Vaughn, and even rock soloists like Slash of Guns 'N Roses, Shepherd probably disturbs purists with his near-Elvis moves. But hey, if teenage girls like it, more the better. He finished his set with an explosive cover of Hendrix' "Voodoo Child," laying his guitar flat on the stage and playing it while crouching above it suggestively. The crowd ate it up.
Prodigal blues guitarist Kenny Wayne Shepherd was born in Shreveport, La. in 1977 and began playing guitar at age seven, inspired by blues players such as Muddy Waters and Stevie Ray Vaughan. At age 13 he began performing publicly and soon signed to Giant Records, releasing his debut album Ledbetter Heights in 1995. The record received an unusual amount of airplay for blues/blues-rock, spawning several Top 10 singles and quickly going gold. His highly anticipated follow-up, Trouble Is, was released in 1997 and featured the single "Slow Ride."

Back Stage during the meet and greet I had a chance to ask Kenny a few questions.
Who's your inspiration?
KWS : Stevie Ray Vaughan was the whole inspiration for me picking up the guitar. I got to hear him play for the picking up the guitar. I got to hear him play for the first time when I was seven years old, in Shreveport, Louisiana. My dad was the promoter of the show. He picked me up and set me over on the side of the stage, and I got to watch on an amp case. That was pretty monumental. It's weird to think that a seven-year-old child can have such a spiritual experience, but it affected the rest of my life. Six months later, I got my own guitar. The thing that really caught me is how free he was. It poured out of him. He played with such fire, and then he could play with such delicacy. He had this ability to reach out and grab everybody's attention and hold it in the palm of his hand.
Do you read Music?
KWS : I play by ear; I'm all self-taught, and I learned how to play listening to his songs over and over again" Stevie Ray Vaughan that is". I learned the history of the blues through him. He was always quick to give credit to who he learned from.

Why did you pick the blues to play?
KWS : That's another thing he taught me: respect for your peers. And he taught me how to let go and find my voice within my own playing.
So any one new in your life right now?
KWS: Melody Van Zant, the twenty-one-year-old daughter of the late Lynyrd Skynyrd singer Ronnie Van Zant. We met while touring with Skynyrd and "She's a pretty special little girl," Shepherd says. "It's really cool. She's totally secure with herself and can handle what I'm doing 'cause she grew up around music and touring and stuff like that. She knows what comes with the package. It makes things easier on me. And she's a really great person. One of the sweetest people I ever met."

Well good luck and thank you for your time Kenny, and may you have many wonderful musical years ahead of you.

By Randy Cohen

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