When Kenny Wayne Shepherd trawled the southern backwoods for bluesmen to play with in ’07, he was welcomed with open arms on sheer talent alone. We don’t hear his name terribly often these days, aside from a local rock station’s hard-on for “Blue on Black”, a tune Shepherd never even sang vocals on (that’d be vocalist Noah Hunt). Blues rock currently trends with acts like The Black Keys, and favorite status keeps getting passed to the likes of Jeff Healey, Jonny Lang, and others, leaving Shepherd hanging slyly in the background. With How I Go, Shepherd is ready to step back into the spotlight.
Sincerity shines and struts like an all-too-familiar face ought to. “Yer Blues” is phenomenally proficient, “Come on Over” has some potential as a possible single, “Anywhere the Wind Blows” boldly straddles Trouble Is…/Live On territory, and “Dark Side of Love” feels borderline Henley (in a good way). While it may not surpass what Ledbetter Heights accomplished, How I Go further cements why it’s acceptable to let someone outside of legends like B.B. King or Jimmy Page slide on the steel from time to time.
How I Go remains dark and classical, despite sharp production (“Heat of the Sun”), making Kid Rock’s most recent Seger-esque trespass seem only worthy of use as a CD junkie’s coaster. Or, better yet, the disc screams out for a Dan Auerbach guest appearance. While true blues always feels more authentic on a rickety porch with a flat-top box, there’s absolutely nothing wrong with expanding the premise. We have not seen Shepherd this on point since ’99, but here he is, back, and bringing the blues with him.
Essential Tracks: Round and Round, Yer Blues, “Anywhere the Wind Blows”