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Interview:
Kenny Wayne Shepherd and Experience Hendrix at The Fillmore, 5 Things To Know
 

By GARY GRAFF
Digital First Media, @GraffonMusic

» See more SOUND CHECK

Like most anyone who plays guitar, Kenny Wayne Shepherd loves his Jimi Hendrix.

That's why the Louisiana-born prodigy, a full-fledged veteran now at the age of 39, is a staple on the Experience Hendrix tours, which feature a small legion of players paying tribute to the late guitar great's music and instrumental prowess. Shepherd regularly gets to sear through one of the shows' regular highlights, "Voodoo Chile (Slight Return)," which is also a feature of his own shows, and he never fails to do it justice.

He also has his own career as well as membership in The Rides with elder statesman Stephen Stills and Barry Goldberg, but the Hendrix hook-up is still one of the highlights of his calendar...

Shepherd and Experience Hendrix were in St. Louis last Saturday (March 18), the night Chuck Berry died there. It fell to Shepherd to pay tribute with a rendition of "Johnny B. Goode" during that night's show. "It was obviously a sad day for rock 'n' roll 'cause we lost one of the mechanics and inventors of the genre itself," Shepherd says. "A few days earlier we were in Memphis when James Cotton died. it's just been a reminder that this generation of people, these architects who have shaped and formed all of our popular music, won't live forever. The Chuck Berry (song) was spur of the moment; I felt compelled to do it and asked before we went on if they were OK with me doing it, 'cause Jimi did that song, and they were OK with it. I was trying to find somebody who could do the splits while I soloed; I was too busy hoping I wouldn't mess it up to try myself."

Shepherd says this year's edition of Experience Hendrix has been a bit different than its predecessors, with the lineup shifting more during the tour than it usually does. "There's been a lot of people who have come and gone throughout the tour," Shepherd says. "There's a core group of musicians who are doing the entire tour, like Buddy Guy, myself, Jonny Lang, Zakk Wylde, but there's been people like Keb' Mo' who was out the first two weeks, then jumped off, and Cesar (Rosas) from Los Lobos came on for a few shows and Brad Whitford (from Aerosmith) joined for a week, whereas in the past there's been only one or two artists who might do that. But it's cool because most nights something different is happening that's fresh and new, which makes it more exciting for us."

To his knowledge, however, nobody on stage has ever received a visitation from Hendrix in any shape or form. "Maybe it did, but they didn't tell me," he says with a laugh. "But there have been a lot of times when we're playing at places (Hendrix) played himself and you're thinking, 'Wow...' And there are lots of moments that are just transcendent and there are some really lengthy guitar solos and cool jamming moments. But I've never heard anybody say Jimi was there, no."

Shepherd has just finished mixing his eightj studio album, tentatively titled "Louisiana Rain," which he recorded in his home town of Shreveport, La. "It's a very contemporary record," Shepherd says. "The last record we did (2014's 'Goin' Home') was traditional blues. I generally kind of bounce around a bit, but if you know my musical history, if I do something totally traditional blues, then I'm going to do something contemporary the next time. It's all new songs, stuff I've been writing for over a year and a half." The set is due out Aug. 11.

Shepherd and The Rides will be touring again later this spring, and he's confident it won't be long before the group starts working on a third album together. "Usually, if history is to repeat itself, we'll tour however much we do this year and at the end of the year start looking at writing songs and preparing for a third album," Shepherd says. "It's so great working with these guys. They don't have to do this; They could retire and never play music again and live a comfortable life, but it's in their blood, which is really inspiring for me."

Experience Hendrix Tour featuring Buddy Guy, Billy Cox, Kenny Wayne Shepherd, Jonny Lang, Dweezil Zappa, Zakk Wylde and others

7:30 p.m. Thursday, March 23.

Fox Theatre, 2211 Woodward Ave., Detroit.

Tickets are $28.50-$88.50.

Call 313-471-6611 or visit olympiaentertainment.com.

Web Site: www.olympiaentertainment.com

Send your thoughts and comments to Gary Graff

 



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