REVIEW: Kenny Wayne Shepherd – Trouble Is…25

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The 5-time Grammy-nominated guitarist, Kenny Wayne Shepherd, released his career-defining second studio album “Trouble Is…” 25 years ago, in 1997, as an 18-year-old, up-and-coming gunslinger from Louisiana. Slated for release on December 2nd, 2022, via Provogue Records/Mascot Label Group, the top-to-bottom reinterpretation of this timeless blues classic by the maestro himself, titled “Trouble Is… 25,” will see the light of day, accompanied by a live DVD filmed at the Strand Theatre in Shepherd‘s hometown of Shreveport, Louisiana, as though denoting things coming full circle. As far as I know, blues songs are not set in stone, by default, but still, to give a quarter-century-old landmark outing a second birth is another matter. In his own words, one of the coolest things about re-recording such a seminal outing was “finding out, or verifying, how timeless this album really is.” After a few spins, it’s easy to agree.

Slow Ride” sets the grind in motion with a chunky blues riffathon that resonates with a groove similar to those timeless Jimi Hendrix classics from the hippy days of yore. Shepherd‘s wah-wah work is particularly beefy and the opener soon turns out to be a not-so-subtle reminder of the great magnitudes of blues music’s transformative power. If you’re one of those who are quick to dismiss blues as boring 12-bar jams around the pentatonic minor, this tune is a prime example of blues that kicks some serious ass!

While the ghost of Hendrix is rather strongly present throughout this blues endeavor – there’s even Shepherd‘s worthy rendition of Hendrix‘s “I Don’t Live Today” – there are all sorts of different nuances, as well. “True Lies” triggers haunting Stevie Ray Vaughan flashbacks here and there. Then again, the original version on the 1997 album had the iconic DOUBLE TROUBLE lineup offering some rhythmic firepower. The original DOUBLE TROUBLE bassist, Tommy Shannon, has retired from the music scene, so this time around, the low end has been taken care of by Shepherd‘s regular wing-man, Kevin McCormick. Otherwise, the original crew is back in business – and it shows! There is a robust DOUBLE TROUBLE vibe on a good few tracks, most prominently on “True Lies,” “Everything Is Broken,” and “(Long) Gone,” the last of which also throws in a pristine harmonica solo.

Then, I must admit that I’ve been familiar with the song, “Blue On Black,” merely because FIVE FINGER DEATH PUNCH covered the song in 2018 for their “And Justice For None” album and also released a single version of it, featuring Kenny Wayne Shepherd, Brantley Gilbert, and Brian May of QUEEN. I knew, at the time, that it was a cover, but I didn’t know whose original song it was (shame on me!). Here, Shepherd‘s reinterpretation of the song is nothing short of sublime. Although I do find the FFDP rendition pretty damn good, it is no contestant to elbow this reinvigorated version by the maestro himself out of its rightful position as the most definitive version of the song.

The tenth track, “Nothing To Do With Love,” is definitely worth singling out too; the main riff is funky as hell! The song tiptoes on the fine line between sweaty blues and the psychedelic soul of the 1960s and 1970s. Vocalist Noah Hunt does quite an impressive job channeling the ghosts of both old blues legends and soul crooners – and Shepherd‘s pristine wah-wah licks and Reese Wynans‘ delicious Hammond organ stabs add just the right finishing touches.

At the time of its original release, “Trouble Is…” was deemed as the album striking the match that reignited modern blues. For long-time fans, the reinterpretation entitled “Trouble Is… 25,” reinforced with the bonus track, “Ballad Of A Thin Man,” will be a serious trip down memory lane, no doubt. For those of us who missed the boat the first time around, Kenny Wayne Shepherd‘s new take on the subject matter stands as a powerful testament to timeless blues perfection worth your while. This selection will be right down your alley especially if those classic Jimi Hendrix albums have rubbed you the right way. There is definitely some sort of kinship of spirit between these two guitar-slingers.

Written by Jani Lehtinen

Tracklist

  1. Slow Ride
  2. True Lies
  3. Blue On Black
  4. Everything Is Broken
  5. I Don’t Live Today
  6. (Long) Gone
  7. Somehow, Somewhere, Someway
  8. I Found Love (When I Found You)
  9. King’s Highway
  10. Nothing To Do With Love
  11. Chase the Rainbow
  12. Trouble Is
  13. Ballad Of A Thin Man

Lineup

Kenny Wayne Shepherd – guitars

Noah Hunt – vocals

Reese Wynans – keys

Kevin McCormick – bass

Chris Layton – drums

Label

Provogue / Mascot Label Group

Links

https://www.kennywayneshepherd.net/

https://www.facebook.com/kennywayneshepherd

https://www.instagram.com/kennywayneshepherd/