By Dave Resto
From one of the premiere guitarists of contemporary blues, Kenny Wayne Shepherd, comes a new album, Lay It On Down, delivering a fresh and diverse take on blues roots music in all its forms. Released August 4th on Concord Records, Shepherd teamed up with Nashville-based producer Marshall Altman to create an all-original album that rewards listeners with a wealth of new and exciting music that explores and expands his repertoire. The ten tracks traverse thrilling new territory while still capturing the blues-rock thread present in his eight highly acclaimed albums. Lay It On Down is Shepherd’s first album release since Goin’ Home in 2014.
“I wanted to make an album of great American roots music, and the end result is something that I’m really pleased with,” Shepherd said of his new album. “I wanted to play to our strengths, but I also wanted to make an album full of music that people haven’t heard from us before.”
The opening track, “Baby Got Gone,” launches with the crack of a snare drum, followed by a solid rhythmic guitar and Shepherd singing lead vocal in a surprisingly sexy snarl, which is all attitude. The song moves along naturally, allowing it to breathe and develop a steady, hip-grinding quality. To me, it announced the album’s obvious intentions to please fans and reach new ears, with its gritty, guitar-driven feel, its high-end production and radio-friendly sound.
The momentum continues with the super-soulful, “Diamonds & Gold,” one of my favorite tracks. This one is like a throw-back to soul music from the heart of the 70s with an updated sound. Saturated with fat horns, B3 keys and a stone-cold, killer wah-wah pedaled guitar, Shepherd swaggers the vocal again. The chorus is infectious, while the bridge is a beautifully effective breakdown that sets up the aggressive and magically funky lead guitar solo. I found myself hanging onto every bit of this one as it faded away.