Album review : KENNY WAYNE SHEPHERD – Goin’ Home


Provogue [Release date 05.05.13]

Kenny Wayne Shepherd tells us that: ‘These are songs that helped shape who I am’.

It might seem a little early in his career to be indulging in a ‘Goin’ Home’ scenario especially, as he’s still only 36, but then again KWS was an early starter, cutting the excellent ‘Ledbetter Heights’ when he was barely 18.

Since then he’s enjoyed huge commercial success, but has always liberally dipped into the blues – ‘10 days Out: Blues From The Backroads’ being a highlight – as well as touring under the Experience Hendrix banner and exploring covers on his other current project The Rides, and now comes ‘Goin Home’, another dip into the blues.

‘Goin Home’s is the triumph of the core band’s playing over an unimaginative choice of covers. Unimaginative as they are, he certainly does them justice, or rather his regular band does, as they nailed 22 basic tracks in 11 days.

The question is do we really need another version of ‘Palace Of The King’, ‘The House Is A Rockin’, ‘Born Under a Bad Sign’ or ‘Feel Like I’m Breaking Up Somebody’s Home’, particularly as Paul Rogers and Robert Cray and Robben Ford have all recently indulged in their own recycling.

If the answer is yes, it’s mainly down to his band, who make the most of a poor hand. Vocalist Noah Hunt is never less than eloquent, while drummer Chris Layton, Anglo-American bassist Tony Franklin and keyboardist Riley Osbourn all warm to their task, especially on ‘I Love The Life I Live’, as a Kim Wilson’s drop-in brings presence and poise alongside Joe Walsh guitar parts. Warren Haynes also sprinkles magic vocal dust on ‘Breaking Up’, before an inspired guitar work-out with KWS.

On ‘You Can’t Judge A Book By Its Cover’ there’s a sharp contrast between the gritty vocals of Pastor Brady Blade, Snr. and Kenny’s searing guitar, while ‘Boogie Man’ stays faithful to Freddy King’s arrangement, even if the vocal does sound a bit thin for a song full of sexual bravado.

Noel shows how it should be done on the power charged ‘Looking Back’. Ringo Starr adds characteristic cymbal work on a cooking version of ‘Cut You Loose’, and Keb’ Mo’s earthy vocal on a routine ‘Born Under A Bad Sign’ is adorned by a big toned guitar, Riley Osbourn’s organ and the Rebirth Brass Band’s punchy horns.

Muddy’s ‘Still A Fool’ aka ‘Catfish Blues’ or ‘Two Trains’ is a deep groove with doctored vocals and is easily the best track on the album. KWS’s distorted guitar and Robert Randolph’s tremulous tone give the extended droning jam its edge, and the kind of intensity lacking elsewhere.

There’s always a gap between expectation and reality and ‘Goin Home’ sets itself lofty ambitions which are only partially realised, mainly by what KWS manages to bring to the session.

He’s gone home and done his influences proud, but with just a little more thought and perhaps real time playing by the guests, this could have been a great album.  ***½ 

Review by Pete Feenstra

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