Arts, Dining & Entertainment

Come hear the future of the blues with Kenny Wayne Shepherd

Wednesday, March 20, at 7:30 p.m.—RUTLAND—Next Wednesday night the Paramount Theatre hosts Kenny Wayne Shepherd a Grammy-nominated, multi-platinum bandleader who still sounds like the future of the blues. 

Kenny Wayne Shepherd has always sought to give fans something unexpected each time he releases an album.

“I don’t want to be a predictable artist like in the sense that you hear ‘Kenny Wayne Shepherd is coming out with a new record’ and you feel like you already know what it’s going to sound like before you even hear it,” he explained in a late-January phone interview. “That’s not the kind of artist I want to be. I’m always striving to do something different and always striving to get better.”

Shepherd’s latest release, “Dirt on My Diamonds, Vol. 1,” certainly fulfills that mission statement.

While the 46-year-old singer-songwriter-guitarist has generally been considered a blues-rock artist ever since he arrived on the scene at age 18 with his 1995 debut album, “Ledbetter Heights,” the new eight-song release finds Shepherd exploring some fresh musical avenues.

“Dirt on My Diamonds, Vol. 1” opens on a punchy note with the title track, a blues-infused rocker that uses an affection for things that have a lived-in-and-lived-through character as metaphors for the way life encompasses times of beauty, love, loss, challenge and redemption. It’s a song that feels like signature Shepherd. But elsewhere “Dirt On My Diamonds, Vol. 1” adds some new wrinkles. “Best Of Times” has a decidedly gritty and funky feel, and its sharp horn parts introduce a soul element that’s also prominently featured in the slinky ballad “You Can’t Love Me,” the greasy shuffle of “Man on a Mission” and the hard-hitting “Bad Intentions.”    

“I feel like there’s soul in everything that we do. But you hear a lot of different influences on this record,” Shepherd said. “As time has gone on, I have taken the liberty to pull from a lot of different musical genres over the years. But it always starts with blues. Everything we do, like, the core of it is the blues foundation that I’ve always built my music off of. But this one just pulls from a few (more) different directions than maybe some of the older stuff.”

The way Shepherd approached writing for “Dirt on My Diamonds” also fits with his desire to continue exploring new musical facets with his album projects.


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Kenny Wayne Shepherd, a Grammy-nominated multi-platinum bandleader, will perform at the Paramount Theatre in Rutland  on Wednesday night, March 20 at 7:30 p.m. His latest album, “Dirt on My Diamonds, Vol. 1,” explores new musical avenues and uses a blues-infused rocker as a metaphor for life’s moments.

 

Rather than scheduling various writing sessions with his collaborators, Shepherd took the opportunity to set up shop with his co-writers at the legendary Fame Studios in Muscle Shoals, Alabama, where career-defining albums by the Rolling Stones, Aretha Franklin and the Allman Brothers Band, to name a few, were made.

“We all drove down there. We made it a trip,” Shepherd said. “We just decided we wanted to do something different, something outside the norm. It’s just trying to change things up a bit. We went down there and we were in there for about four or five days, I think. We just started writing away, man. We just wanted to soak up that vibe that they have down there. So much legendary music was made there.”

Shepherd then took the bones of the newly written songs to Band House Studios in Los

Angeles and Galt Line Music in Nashville, where he and his go-to co-producer Marshall Altman and musicians (which included core members of Shepherd’s touring band Noah Hunt, who splits vocals with Shepherd, bassist Kevin McCormick and drummer Chris Layton) brought the songs to life playing together in the studio.

“That’s how we always do it, real musicians playing together in a room at the same time. That’s the way I’ve made records,” Shepherd said. “The creative process happens in the studio. We don’t walk in the studio with all of the parts predetermined. I do very basic acoustic demos of these songs when we write them. And then I allow for the creative process to happen when we’re in the studio. That’s the whole point.”

With “Dirt on My Diamonds, Vol. 1,” having been released in November, Shepherd and his seven-piece band (which includes a horn section) will spend much of 2024 on tour, playing songs from the new album and from his nine other studio albums.

“The goal, obviously, is to feature some songs from the new record,” Shepherd said. “There are (also) some standout songs that I believe the fans look forward to hearing every time they come to see us. Obviously, ‘Blue On Black’ (the hit single from Shepherd’s platinum-selling 1997 album “Trouble Is…”) is a song we play every time (as well as) staple songs I think people hope will be in the set every time they come. So we’re trying to include as many of those as possible. But we’ll also bring some material into the show that we haven’t played at least in the past couple of years, some things I think people will be excited to see back in the set lists. So we’re going to be covering songs that go all the way back to the first album and a little bit of everything in between.”

In the months and years to come, fans can expect to see Shepherd add several more albums to his catalog. First up will be the companion “Dirt on My Diamonds, Vol. 2,” which could be released as early as this fall.

The guitarist said the second volume will both complement the music that was released on “Dirt on My Diamonds, Vol. 1.”

“It’s different, but there is a common thread,” he said. “It was all kind of done around the same time, but it’s different. The eight tracks on ‘Vol. 2’ are not just like different versions of songs from ‘Vol. 1’…Every song on ‘Vol. 2’ brings something different to the table. Like if you put these two together as one big, long record, every song will contribute something different.”

There’s also a newly recorded version of “Ledbetter Heights” in the works for that album’s 30-year anniversary in 2025. It follows in a somewhat similar vein to the re-recorded version of “Trouble Is…,” which was released in December 2022 to mark the 25th anniversary of that career-making album.

“We took a little more liberty with the recording of this one,” Shepherd said of the in-progress new version of “Ledbetter Heights.” “We want people to recognize the record. We don’t want to alienate the (fans of) the original album. But Noah (Hunt) is going to be singing and I might sing a couple of the songs on it as well. But the original singer on ‘Ledbetter Heights’ was Corey Sterling. He hasn’t been with my band since we did that record. So the nature of the new version is going to be different from the get-go because it’s going to have different voices on it. So knowing we can’t do an exact replica of the original, it kind of opens up more opportunities for us to experiment a little more with it.”

Finally, there’s an album of cover songs that was recorded with producer Jerry Harrison (formerly of Talking Heads) and is planned for release toward the end of 2026. Shepherd said fans shouldn’t expect an album made up of his versions of songs by blues heroes like B.B. King or blues-rock peers like Jonny Lang.

“Obviously, they are all songs that we dig and we appreciate. They’re by artists that I respect,” Shepherd said. “But I like doing things outside the box, too. I think it’s a compelling idea that you would see this list of songs by these artists and you would just go ‘Hey, I never would have thought I’d hear Kenny Wayne Shepherd do that song.’ In the moment it might be a little head scratcher, but when you hear it you go ‘Wow, that actually sounds great. It makes total sense’.”

One comment on “Come hear the future of the blues with Kenny Wayne Shepherd

  1. I just saw KWS last week in Pittsburgh.
    His best show ever..
    He is an amazing guitarist ( unbelievable actually) who is just getting better with age and the band is super tight and sounds great.
    What a performance.

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