Kenny Wayne Shepherd Band: How I Go Review

Simply put, The Kenny Wayne Shepherd Band’s newest release, How I Go, boasts as much balls as any blues/rock album in recent memory.

The marquee attraction is, and always will be, Kenny Wayne Shepherd’s guitar playing. A true guitar hero since 1995’s Ledbetter Heights, it is refreshing to see a young name that brings to mind a specific instrument and sound (yes, KWS is still young, and yes, his tone still smolders). Without abandoning any of the blues weaved into Shepherd’s fingers, the forceful KWSBand doesn’t just straddle the line between blues and rock; it crushes it and forges its own legitimately convincing blues/rock creature. And although the spotlight always finds a way to shine on Shepherd’s lead work, the rhythm section is far more than a mere wingman. The boogie-down masters, bassist Tommy Shannon and drummer Chris “Whipper” Layton (the legendary rhythm section of Stevie Ray Vaughan & Double Trouble), are heavier than ever as they stomp their way through the album. How I Go exemplifies their animated virtuosity that calls to mind John Paul Jones and John Bonham – controlled, explosive, and downright groovy.

It is not easy to reinvent something as established as the blues, but the KWSBand definitely struts with enough talent and confidence to build an exciting structure upon a reliable foundation. “Yer Blues” is a cocky, hip-swaying, nasty song. It’s the gunshot that jolts the rest of the album into motion and warns the listener for the storm that is still to come. From here, the flow picks up steam and intensifies.

One of the standout tracks is the absolutely filthy, absolutely sexy “Oh, Pretty Woman.” The combination of the omnipresent Stevie Ray Vaughan sound and Stax Records-style horns creates a monster happily lost in time. “Dark Side of Love” is an up tempo, but unsettling, tune that feels as if it commands the band towards the direction that it wants to go. It’s a heavy and heartbreaking showcase of long, swelling bends inspired by B.B. King and Albert King. The one-two punch of “Dark Side of Love” and “Heat of the Sun” is the most honest part of the album. Here is where the KWSBand’s soul is left weary and broken for the best. On the rebound, however, is “Backwater Blues,” which conjures a raucous image of late-night juke joints and gin houses. By the end I expected to hear a rowdy, drunken audience expressing their admiration for the guitar-man towering above on a two foot stage.

The concentrated heaviness that is found in all tracks, even in the tenderest of songs, on How I Go rationalizes The KWSBand’s post among the heavy metal Roadrunner Records roster. The driving spirit is rooted in Shepherd himself, as he never sounds shy. Despite the flash and flamboyancy of his fretboard, Shepherd’s playing continues to mature. He remains tasteful in his solos as they lend to the song as a whole by diving in and out of emotions that are rightly prevalent. This album is an example of what Kenny Wayne Shepherd and his band does best; they make good albums that are full of good songs. How I Go is a hard-hitting slice of Kenny Wayne Shepherd’s already terrifyingly short legacy.

The Review: 9/10

Can’t Miss Tracks

– Come On Over
– Oh, Pretty Woman
– Dark Side Of Love
– Heat Of The Sun
– Backwater Blues

The Big Hit

– Come On Over

Never Lookin’ Back Video

Review by Jason Bank

11 thoughts on “Kenny Wayne Shepherd Band: How I Go Review

  • December 27, 2011 at 5:35 pm

    You need a slight correction here. While Chris Layton is the drummer on this record (and tour) his normal battery mate Tommy Shannon is not on this record. He has been replaced with former Firm bassist tony Franklin, a brilliant fretless bass player.

    Other than that I completely agree. definitely their best record to date and solid tracks all the way through.

    Worth noting too is that he says he took a conscious step back from soloing on this record to let the songs speak more clearly. There are some bluesmen who never seem to figure this out and the “youngster” among them has gotten it just right this time.

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