Five-time Grammy-nominated guitarist Kenny Wayne Shepherd has officially released his much-awaited studio album “Dirt On My Diamonds, Vol. 1”. Brimming with a unique blend of blues fused with contemporary sounds, the album is a sonic treat for Shepherd‘s followers and blues enthusiasts alike.
In a recent interview with Brian Colburn from My Weekly Mixtape, Shepherd discussed his experience on the Experience Hendrix Tour; recording with Les Claypool on his cover of Fleetwood Mac’s “Oh Well;” the vocal dynamics being co-lead singer along with Noah Hunt; performing with Double Trouble members Chris Layton, Reese Wynans & Tommy Shannon; and much more. Check out some transcribed excerpts from their conversation below, and listen to the entire chat here.
On Touring With Eddie Van Halen
“We did the final Van Halen tour in 2015. We did that entire tour with those guys, and I spoke with him every day. Every single day he came and found me, and he’d come give me a big hug and we’d sit down and talk and hang out, you know. He was always very gracious and very generous with his time when it came to me.”
“You know, two very different styles of playing. But I think that’s one of the reasons why it worked as a lineup, and that’s why we did it more than once, you know, Van Halen, Kenny Wayne Shepherd. Because, my music is guitar-based, guitar-centric, guitar-driven. And for the first couple of albums in my career, I was just a guitar player and didn’t really sing in my own band. So, a lot of similarities in that regard, but the genres are different, but still, they’re connected because, you know, blues and rock go hand in hand. So, it just works really”
On Jimi Hendrix / The Experience Hendrix Tours
“Jimi Hendrix, his impact on music cannot be understated. I mean, it’s actually hard to really quantify it, but I mean, he’s one of the greatest guitar players, maybe the greatest of all time. Massive influence on me and many, many other guitar players.”
“So, I grew up playing his songs and we end, traditionally have ended, almost all of my concerts with doing a rendition of “Voodoo Child.” It’s just kind of become a mainstay in the setlist and something people come, you know, sometimes people come just to see me play that song.”
“And, I would do that on the Experience Hendrix tour. And, you know, that was a cool tour because he had such great guitar players, fantastic musicians who were all influenced by Jimi, paying homage to him by performing his music. And a lot of collaborations would happen and things like that. So, yeah, I really love that tour. I look forward to possibly doing it again in the not too distant future.”
On Les Claypool’s Guest Appearance on His Cover of Fleetwood Mac’s “Oh Well”
“He killed it, man, especially at the end of that song, and the last solo, you can hear him just going off on bass. It’s really incredible. But yeah, that was one of those really cool things that you hear about happening sometimes when you’re working at famous recording studios. We recorded several different records at the Record Plant in Sausalito, California, and that’s a legendary place no longer exists, but a lot of people would work there, so you never know who might be working in one of the other rooms. And, sometimes collaborations happen just because you’re in the same, you’re under the same roof, you know? And so, that’s what happened.”
“Like, he was in there, he could hear us down the hallway, he pops his head into the control room just to hear what we’re doing. Jerry Harrison, who produced that record, knew him. And we all said, “Hey man, why don’t you play bass on this thing?” And he was like, “Yeah, let’s do it!”You know, and it just happened on the spot, then he killed it. He was great”
On his Relationships With the Members of Stevie Ray Vaughan’s Double Trouble
“Chris Layton had given me his phone number, so we gave him a call and asked him if he’d be interested in playing drums on my first record. And he said, yes. And that was the beginning of an incredibly long and personally close relationship that he and I have. But then when it came time to do the second album, “Trouble Is,” we brought everybody in. And so Tommy Shannon came and played bass and Reese Winans came and played keyboards. It was just incredible for me. I was such a fan of those guys, and the music that they did with Stevie Ray Vaughan.
“They were like my band before I had a band because I used to just sit around the house playing along with them and their music. So, when it came time for me to play with them, it was all very natural. I think it was, it felt very natural for them. Because a lot of my style of playing had evolved around their music, and learning their music and stuff, and so it was a great fit. And so, they were on the second album and the third album. Chris has played drums on every album I’ve ever done, except for one. And he’s been in my live band now for close to 20 years.”
On “Dirt On My Diamonds, Vol. 2”
“Well, it’s already done. So it’s going to come. We just have to figure out when the right release date is. I would think it’s probably going to happen about a year after this album has dropped. But yes, there are two volumes.
“And really to me, if you go back to the first album that I worked with Marshall Altman, who is my co-producer on these two records. The first one we did together was “Lay It On Down” and then after that, we did “The Traveler,” which was our last studio record. And now, we’ve done “Dirt On My Diamonds, Vol. 1” and Vol. 2.”
“But to me, I feel like looking at the body of work, it’s almost like every album is like chapters in a book. And one kind of seamlessly runs and flows into the next. And it’s like, we’re telling a musical story here. And so that’s kind of what sparked the idea. Of doing a Vol. 1 and a Vol. 2, because I really am looking at the albums that I’ve done with him, it’s like one body of work divided up into chapters.”