Kenny Wayne Shepherd Band – Lay It On Down | Album Review

Kenny Wayne Shepherd Band – Lay It On Down

Concord Music Group – 2017

10 tracks; 41 minutes

The band’s 2014 album Goin’ Home revisited some tried and tested blues favourites but this time around KWS returns with an album of contemporary blues rock full of the sort of hooks and melodies that he and his band are really good at. The band remains Noah Hunt on lead vocals, Chris Layton on drums, Kevin McCormick on bass and newcomer Jimmy Gorman on keys, Kenny Wayne handling all guitar duties and sharing the vocals with Noah. Additional musicians are co-producer Marshall Altman (percussion, keys, B/V’s), Russ Pahl (pedal steel), Carlos Sosa (sax), Raul Vallejo (trombone) and Paul Armstrong (trumpet). Kenny wrote all the material here with assistance from a number of Nashville writers such as Dylan Altman, Danny Myrick, Keith Stegall and Brian D. Maher as well as long-time collaborators, Tia Sillers and Mark Selby. The songs cover quite a range from straight down the line rockers to big production ballads, acoustic tunes and even some country influences, the emphasis being more on the songs than on extensive soloing.

Noah Hunt has always been a magnificent vocalist but Kenny holds his own on several songs on which he leads, perhaps the result of his experience sharing vocals with Stephen Stills in The Rides. Kenny certainly sounds utterly convincing on “Baby Got Gone” which makes a great opening cut with all the ingredients present and correct: a rousing chorus, short and interesting guitar solo. “Diamonds & Gold” adds horns to the mix on another uptempo cut that points an accusing finger at the excesses of some people and features another great chorus, Kenny laying down some heavy wah-wah. “Nothing But The Night” brings Noah to the mike sounding pretty sexy/romantic on a mid-tempo tune with a real groove to it, Kenny producing a ‘sit up and listen’ solo.

Hard Lesson Learned” shows its Nashville roots with Russ’ weeping pedal steel, the harmonies giving the song an Eagles feel, Noah singing commandingly in a different style and Kenny adding some nice touches on guitar. The first of two KWS/Sillers/Selby songs is the title track, a ballad which Kenny sings in a wistful manner as well as playing some delightful acoustic guitar. The song is about broken dreams: “You flew for a while with kingpins and kings, they’d snap their fingers and you’d sing. They’d take what they want, tell you sweet lies, in the cold bed of dawn leave you to cry. Who broke your will now honey, who stole your dreams like money?” Their second collaboration is “Louisiana Rain”, a superb ballad sung impressively by Noah, the choral harmonies with Kenny spot on and a lovely short solo. Fans will recall that this is the team that also wrote “Blue On Black” and it is sad to note that Mark passed away just after this album was released.

She’s $$$” finds Noah admiring a lady who may just be out of his reach, an uptempo tune with some country influences while “Down For Love” rides Jimmy’s organ before Kenny launches a wide-ranging solo to remind long-term fans that he is still a formidable axe-man. Kenny’s Rn’B flavoured rhythm work sets a frantic pace on “How Low Can You Go” before he pulls out a fleet-fingered solo, possibly the song here with the highest blues content. Album closer “Ride Of Your Life” plays out a fictional ride out of town, combining Kenny’s enthusiasm for cars and guitars, Noah sounding suitably macho in his vocal delivery.

Readers will note that the word ‘blues’ has been little used in this review. This is a very good album with good songs, well played and sung, but there is little blues here. Nevertheless, it is a fine rock album with hints of blues, notably in Kenny’s guitar, and is well worth investigating, both for long-term fans or for those who might be new to KWS’ music.

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