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REVIEW: Kenny Wayne Shepherd is true blues at Sands Bethlehem Event Center

Special to The Morning Call

Kenny Wayne Shepherd brought his love of the blues, a collection of Fender Stratocasters and a tight, seasoned band to Sands Bethlehem Event Center on Saturday.

Shepherd played a 13-song set, plus a three-song encore, for an almost worshipful audience that nearly filled the house, anxious to hear one of the last of a fading breed of true blues-rock guitar gunslingers. 

The set featured a mix of songs from Shepherd’s recording catalog and several blues classics -- a number of which appear on his newly released record “Goin’ Home,” an homage to the influences that inspired him to pick up a guitar at age 7 and hone his craft with steadfast determination ever since.

Kenny Wayne Shepherd live 4Shepherd opened with “Never Lookin’ Back,” a single from his previous CD, “How I Go,” then continued with “Everything is Broken,” the Bob Dylan cover he recorded on 1997’s LP “Trouble Is … .”

But an excited crowd really revved up with recognition for the familiar guitar-and-snare drum riff at the start “The House is Rockin’,” the Stevie Ray Vaughn classic Shepherd covers on the new record.

That also was the first of three songs in which Shepherd sang lead vocal instead of his band’s regular front man, Noah Hunt. Unfortunately, Shepherd’s vocal performances were very nearly overwhelmed by the band. That may have been more an issue at the mixing board, however, as Shepherd’s voice shined through on the Elmore James standard “Talk to Me Baby.”

Kenny Wayne Shepherd live 2But Shepherd fans come to hear him play guitar like few others do, and he certainly didn’t disappoint. He stretched out passionate solos on “Born With a Broken Heart,” his own composition that appeared on his debut record “Ledbetter Heights”; “You Done Lost Your Good Thing Now,” a B.B. King cover that appears on the new record; and show-ender “Voodoo Child (Slight Return),” a Jimi Hendrix standard that, for Shepherd, owes more to the Stevie Ray Vaughn version than the original.