Review: Kenny Wayne Shepherd – Straight To You: Live CD/DVD
Provogue (November 27th 2020)
Reviewer: Peter Scallan
I haven’t heard that much Kenny Wayne Shepherd until last year’s album entitled ‘The Traveller‘ which I thought was excellent. Therefore, although looking forward to giving this a listen, I was obviously limited by knowledge of his back catalogue. The version I have is the deluxe version with both CD and DVD of a set recorded in Germany on the last tour I believe.
The album opens with three songs off from ‘The Traveller‘ album. In fact it is the first three songs of ‘The Traveller‘ in sequence, kicking off with the melodic blues rock of ‘Women Like You‘ with a great blues riff and huge chorus hook with superb vocals. ‘Long Time Running‘ picks up the pace and continues in the same melodic blues vein before ‘I Want You‘ kicks in and takes the band back to a more slow blues base in which Shepherd shows his roots. We then launch into ‘Diamonds and Gold‘ which is back to the huge melodic blues rock sound driven by a powerful horn section which rocks along very nicely with another catchy melody. Next up is more traditional blues of a cover of Elmore James’ ‘Talk To Me Baby‘. This swings along nicely with the band going full out to provide a platform for Shepherd’s stellar guitar playing. Then we slip back into the slow-burning blues of ‘Heat Of The Sun‘. This is a ten minute version of this song which in its original studio version lasted just five minutes. One of my bugbears with some blues guitarists is the very thing of taking a great five minute song and turning it into a rambling, self-indulgent ten minutes blues number. However, in this instance it really works and was probably the gig highlight as after all everybody was there to see Shepherd.
After the epic ‘Heat Of The Sun‘ we go straight back to pacey and punchy blues rock with ‘Down For Love‘. This is a great upbeat number which drops into a quiet section briefly before rocking out to the end with Shepherd giving it serious big licks. We quickly change pace again for ‘Shame, Shame, Shame‘ which is from Shepherd’s debut album. This is a powerful song both vocally and instrumentally with the band getting the chance to highlight just how good they are alongside KWS in an extended instrumental section. There is a return to the latest album with ‘Turn To Stone‘ which has some great vocals and guitar licks on it and is more in line with the melodic blues rock with an almost reggae feel to it. Next up is a KWS track I was familiar with before last year, namely ‘Blue On Black‘ which was a hit of sorts when it was released. It’s another great example of the how KWS combines melody and blues and has such a great groove. Getting to near the end of the live set and there are a couple of prize covers, the first of which is ‘I’m A King Bee‘, which is an infectious and high energy cover version of Slim Harpo’s song from the 1950’s. The live set then finishes with an epic version of Hendrix’s ‘Voodoo Chile (Slight Return)‘ in which Shepherd really does let rip and is a fitting end to this live set.
As I mentioned, this package also has a DVD version of the album and includes the full near 90 minute set and includes additional songs such as ‘Mr Soul‘ (a Buffalo Springfield cover) from ‘The Traveller‘. While I enjoyed the CD, you get much more of a sense of a live performance from the DVD as you get the chat between the songs, while the CD feels like a collection of live tracks. Therefore, if purchasing this I would suggest you ensure you get the deluxe version as the DVD is superb. IF you like your blues driven by some serious lick-laden, guitar histrionics, then this is mostly definitely for you. I really need to dig more into the KWS back catalogue based on this album most definitely!