KENNY WAYNE SHEPHERD -- Ledbetter Heights (Giant)

Eric Clapton had this to say about the late Stevie Ray Vaughan: "It's going to be a long time before anyone that brilliant will come along again." Well, with any luck at all, that "anyone" has arrived. Kenny Wayne Shepherd burst onto the blues scene last year, and people are standing up & taking notice. The thing that sparked his passion for the blues, was watching SRV play. Kenny remembers, "When I was about seven, we went to hear Stevie. He lifted me up on his amp case on the side of the stage, and I sat there the whole time, watching him play." From that point on, Kenny was hooked.

By the time he was thirteen, his musical gift was evident. On a family trip to New Orleans, he met up with local guitar legend, Bryan Lee. After a lot of convincing, Lee was persuaded to let "the kid" sit in with the band. The crowd was blown away. Kenny began sitting in with other artists & formed his own band. The buzz started to get around blues circles about "the kid from Shreveport". Kenny soon got the chance to meet and play with several of his personal heroes. He was asked to add licks to posthumous releases from Willie Dixon and Albert King, and received critical acclaim for both. Irving Azoff (who signed Kenny to Giant Records) said this after seeing him open for the Eagles, "He is truly a phenomenon. He plays like someone who's lived a lot longer than he has."

Most of the tracks on the 18-year-old guitarist's debut have a very definite SRV feel to them. His fluid guitar licks shine throughout, and his band is top-notch. The vocals are a bit lacking at times, but the guitar work is enough to carry most of the songs. Out of the CD's 12 songs, only two ("Everybody Gets the Blues" and "I've Had Enough") are less than spectacular. Tracks like "Born With a Broken Heart", "Deja Voodoo", and the cover of Chester Burnett's "I'm Leaving You (Commit a Crime)" are all excellent. Not content to stick within one basic blues style on his CD, Shepherd included two outstanding acoustic based songs, "Aberdeen" and "Riverside" (featuring Shepherd on lead vocals), as well as a couple instrumental tracks.

With the current resurgence of the blues, there's been a number of new players all trying to make a name for themselves. One thing is for certain though - the future of the blues is here. His name is Kenny Wayne Shepherd.

© 1996 Steve Marshall