The Robert Cray Band & Kenny Wayne Shepherd
Sat, September 22, 2012
Doors: 6:30 pm / Show: 8:00 pm
The Capitol Theatre
Port Chester, NY
$45 Advance / $50 Day of Show
This event is 18 and over
This event will have a general admission standing room only floor and a reserved seated Loge and Balcony. Reserved Loge and Balcony tickets will NOT have access to the general admission floor.
an entire genre.
Utter the phrase “young blues guitarist” within earshot of anyone with even a cursory knowledge of the
modern musical vanguard and the first name they are most likely to respond with will be Kenny Wayne
Shepherd. Still barely in his 30s, the Louisiana born axeman and songsmith has been selling millions of
albums, throwing singles into the Top 10, shining a light on the rich blues of the past and forging ahead
with his own modern twist on a classic sound he has embodied since his teens. He met Stevie Ray
Vaughan at 7, shared the stage with New Orleans legend Bryan Lee at13. As an adult, he continues to
create genre-defining blues-infused rock n’ roll.
Kenny Wayne Shepherd’s How I Go not only serves as a strong reminder of the chops that caused Guitar
World to place him right behind B.B. King and Eric Clapton on their list of blues guitarists, but it’s the
strongest indication yet of his gifted songwriting talent. The album pairs Kenny’s deeply soulful and
impassioned takes on classic material like Bessie Smith’s “Backwater Blues,” Albert King’s “Oh, Pretty
Woman” and The Beatles “Yer Blues” alongside the strongest writing and co-writing of his career thus far.
Let’s not forget that Kenny co-wrote “Blue on Black” very early on. The song was #1 on the Rock Charts
for 17 consecutive weeks. All of the accolades heaped upon his playing are well deserved and well earned.
But there is so much more to offer.
“At this point, most people who know about me know I can play guitar,” Shepherd says. “As far as my
approach to guitar on this record, it’s not about showing people how much I can play. It’s about really
choosing the right notes and playing them at the right times so that every note penetrates people, and they
feel it inside and it’s not just some fleeting thing that just goes right by them.
“I wanted to be conservative, and selective, and tasteful in the solos that I did,” he adds. “I wanted to
concentrate on the song as a whole: the vocals, the arrangements, so every instrument that is being played
contributes to the song and takes it to a better place.”
Where Ledbetter Heights (1995) was a little more bluesy; Trouble Is… (1997) offered more blues based
rock; Live On (1999) took a turn to more blues based rock; The Place You’re In (2004) went straight
ahead rock and the 10 Days Out (2007) documentary exemplified the best of straight blues, Kenny says
this one “falls right down the middle between blues and rock.”
“Never Lookin’ Back” is a rocking song that sets the tone for album, with lyrics about moving on and
rolling with life’s punches. The song “Cryin’ Shame” has that straight Texas shuffle longtime fans love to
hear from Kenny and his band. “Show Me The Way Back Home” is a powerful blues ballad for the ages.
“We hit a really great balance,” he says of the album, which he co-produced.
“Who’s Gonna Catch You Now?” is a very personal song. “I’ve become a father over the past couple of
years. It’s about a parent accepting what it’s like to be a parent and having to accept a certain degree of
powerlessness. It’s just learning about acceptance. If you’re a parent, it will pull on your heart strings for
The hard-rocking, blues-based, guitar-driven album sounds young, it sounds fresh. Yet it has that
distinctive energy and vibe drawn from the deep heritage of the genre. Kenny Wayne Shepherd is growing
as a songwriter, musician and producer. Which isn’t to say he’s not proud of his past. “I don’t have any
regrets, other than maybe a couple of outfits that I wore on stage,” he laughs.
“My approach from day one was that I was not going to record anything that I couldn’t completely wrap
my mind around and that I wasn’t prepared to play for the rest of my career. As a result of that approach
and not letting anybody talk me into doing anything that I didn’t want to do, and nobody forcing me to
record anything I didn’t want to, I’ve got a body of work that I’m proud of. I still enjoy playing all of the
songs off my first album. They are as much fun to play today as they were in 1995 when that album came
out. I’m not one of those guys who doesn’t want to listen to his own music. I don’t go around listening to it
all the time, but, my thing is, if I’m making music that I don’t want to listen to, then why am I making
music? I enjoy what I do. I have a lot of stuff that I’m proud of. Every album that we’ve done I’ve tried to
do different things. I’ve never wanted to be an artist where people could predict what was next.”
The name “Kenny Wayne Shepherd” is absolutely synonymous with “young blues guitarist” but that
phrase isn’t the totality of his person.
“Blues player is definitely one of the labels I’ve accumulated, because I’m a huge blues fan and I love to
play the blues,” he says. “But if you listen to my music, especially over the course of my career, everything
that I do is not blues. It’s the foundation of what I do, but my stuff has a lot more of an edge to it. It’s a
little more contemporary. And there’s a certain youthfulness to what I do. I started writing and recording
music when I was a teenager and that energy has been consistent throughout my career.”
Last year’s Live in Chicago! captured epic performances from Kenny and an assemblage of living legends
in the blues world. Kenny’s incredible presence and perpetually giving performances, designed to get
every person in the room on their feet and to leave them smiling, are all of the evidence one needs to
determine that he’ll continue to do this for decades to come – just like his heroes.
“I’ve got a lot of a career left ahead of me and a lot of records left to make,” he says. “I’m hoping to be
playing music when I’m in my 80′s like B.B. King. I’ve got a lot more songs left in me to write and record.
My fans want to hear new music, they want to hear new albums, and then when they hear a new record
they want to come out and hear us play that stuff live.”
Kenny Wayne Shepherd is very cognizant of the emotional role music can play in the lives of his listeners.
He’s in awe of that responsibility and works hard to bring happiness to people with his considerable gifts.
With that said, he’s bound and determined to be remembered as a guy who just straight-up kicked a lot of
butt. “I get up on stage every night to play my heart out and to try to turn people on their ear, man. I want
to bring light into people’s lives with my music. If I can make people feel good for an hour and a half to
two hours and forget about whatever might be stressing them out, then I’m doing my job.”
Once the rush of Live begins to settle down, though, it’s natural to wonder why Cray took this long to document his stage chops. Ask him, and his answer is disarmingly candid.
“In the past, whenever we’ve known that we were going to record ourselves onstage, we’ve just gotten too psyched up to sound as strong as we normally do,” he says. “You go into it feeling like you’ve got this one shot, and that can be challenging. I’ve actually lost my voice from the anticipation.”
Live was different in that it draws from seven consecutive shows at the Royal Albert Hall, which allowed Cray and his road-seasoned band keyboardist Jim Pugh, bassist Karl Sevareid, and drummer Kevin Hayes to feel more at home from one night to the next. “After just a short while we weren’t even thinking about the recording,” he explains. “We were only thinking about the music and about playing at this particular venue.”
Cray and his crew were in fact familiar with the Royal Albert Hall, having played there more than a few times with Clapton over the years. That, plus Cray’s affection for London in general, contributed to the vibe. It’s a paradox, perhaps, that as musicians relax, they lock tighter with each other and play with deeper feeling yet the evidence is there, on each track of Live. When the London dates were done, Cray returned to the States and began going over the results. What he heard was, he admits, an eye-opener in some ways. “When I’m playing up there, I don’t really catch everything that’s going on. But when I sat back and listened to the tapes, it was like, ‘Wow, these guys are great!’” He laughs at his own surprise after all, knowing each player as long as he has, the excellence of these recordings was more a reminder than a revelation. “What I mean is, so much stuff goes on that I can’t really catch it all. I’m singing and feeling their support, but when I take myself out of the playing picture and just listen, that’s when I really hear how magical the ensemble can be.”
The toughest part of putting Live together involved choosing which tracks would make the cut. Cray tackled this job meticulously, playing through all seven concerts and taking detailed notes. “I was listening for the best performances,” he explains. “I listened for enthusiasm, if that’s what was called for in the song. And I listened for things that stood out from the norm. One night, for example, we played ‘Our Last Time,’ and Jim Pugh, who normally plays piano on that one, decided to do it on organ. I went with that version not only because it sounded great but also because it was so uncommon.”
Cray’s band rocks and wails and plunges way down to the bottom of the blues well on track after track. And as for Pugh’s solo organ showcase in the midst of “The One in the Middle”? Let’s say that unless you’re going to a sanctified church every Sunday, it’s been a while since you’ve heard anything like this.
Aside from their musicianship, the key to Cray and his band is their history. Through more than a thousand gigs played around the world, they’ve locked in a sound that’s elegant and direct, searing and smooth.
And before that, Cray himself developed quickly, having been raised on the gospel and soul records in his parents’ collection while growing up in Georgia and Washington State. By the time he formed his first band in 1974, the components of his sound were in place: a vocal delivery rooted in the Stax/soul tradition and a Stratocaster guitar style that even then stood him out among the greatest of his peers in the blues. Perhaps another reason for the passion of Live owes to the importance of England in helping Cray launch his career. His second album, Bad Influence (1984), shot to number one on the U.K. indie charts while Clapton paid tribute to his colleague by covering the title song. From that point he rose quickly to worldwide prominence, earning his first Grammy for Strong Persuader (1986), releasing one double-platinum and two gold albums, and appearing or recording with the Rolling Stones, B. B. King, Muddy Waters, John Lee Hooker, Chuck Berry, Bonnie Raitt, and other giants.
The Capitol Theatre
149 Westchester Avenue
Port Chester, NY, 10573