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Monday, Aug. 15, 2011

Kenny Wayne Shepherd

How I Go (Roadrunner Records)

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He may have outgrown the “young blues guitarist” tag, but Kenny Wayne Shepherd remains a vital ax-slinger who bridges the gap between blues and mainstream rock. Now in his mid-30s, Shepherd sounds more comfortable than ever on his sixth studio album, How I Go, an accomplished collection of songs targeting both sides of his fan base.

Vocalist Noah Hunt returns, his deep and haunting vocals the perfect complement to Shepherd's fluid yet scorching style. He sings thick blues (covers of the Beatles' “Yer Blues” and Bessie Smith's “Backwater Blues”) just as smoothly as moody ballads and mid-tempo rockers (“Show Me the Way Back Home,” “Heat of the Sun” and Shepherd's ode to parenthood “Who's Gonna Catch You Now?”). And on “Never Lookin' Back,” How I Go's rollicking first single, Hunt channels Stevie Ray Vaughan's vocal snarl while Shepherd's guitar resounds with cool clarity and conviction. In fact, Shepherd's sonic signature is all over this record, proving the blues is still in capable hands.

Kenny Wayne Shepherd will perform Aug. 20 at The Pabst Theater.
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