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Kenny Wayne Shepherd: Lay It on Down

 A l b u m   D e t a i l s

Label: Concord Records
Released: 2017.08.04
Category: Blues
Producer(s): Kenny Wayne Shepherd, Marshall Altman
Media type: CD
Web address: www.kennywayneshepherd.net
Appears with:
Purchase date: 2017
Price in €: 1,00

 S o n g s ,   T r a c k s

[1] Baby Got Gone (Dylan Altman/Danny Myrick/Kenny Wayne Shepherd) - 3:02
[2] Diamonds & Gold (Marshall Altman/Kenny Wayne Shepherd) - 5:17
[3] Nothing But the Night (Dylan Altman/Danny Myrick/Kenny Wayne Shepherd) - 4:53
[4] Lay It on Down (Mark Selby/Kenny Wayne Shepherd/Tia Sillers) - 4:14
[5] She's $$$ (Brian Maher/Kenny Wayne Shepherd/Keith Stegall) - 4:07
[6] Hard Lesson Learned (Brian Maher/Kenny Wayne Shepherd/Keith Stegall) - 4:29
[7] Down for Love (Dylan Altman/Danny Myrick/Kenny Wayne Shepherd) - 4:10
[8] How Low Can You Go (Brian Maher/Kenny Wayne Shepherd/Keith Stegall) - 2:59
[9] Louisiana Rain (Mark Selby/Kenny Wayne Shepherd/Tia Sillers) - 3:51
[10] Ride of Your Life (Dylan Altman/Danny Myrick/Kenny Wayne Shepherd) - 3:55

 A r t i s t s ,   P e r s o n n e l

Kenny Wayne Shepherd - Vocals, Guitar, Producer, Executive Producer

Marshall Altman - Keyboards, Percussion, Producer, Background Vocals
Noah Hunt - Vocals
Chris Layton - Drums
Kevin McCormick - Bass

Jim McGorman - Keyboards
Russ Pahl - Pedal Steel Guitar
Paul Armstrong - Trumpet
Carlos Sosa - Saxophone
Raúl Vallejo - Trombone

Chris Bell - Engineer
Shani Gandhi - Assistant Engineer
Elliott Miller - Assistant Engineer
Angela Talley - Assistant Engineer
Eric "ET" Thorngren - Mixing
Bob Ludwig - Mastering
Tony Pro - Art Direction, Cover Illustration
Mollie Corbett - Photography
Kristin Forbes - Photography
Greg Logan - Photography
Joe McEwen - A&R

 C o m m e n t s ,   N o t e s

2017 CD Concord Records - CRE00516

Lay It on Down feels like an intentional retort to Goin' Home, Kenny Wayne Shepherd's 2014 back-to-the-blues platter. Although Shepherd never abandons the blues, either as a color or a sensibility, he expands his palette considerably on this 2017 album, opening himself up to soul, country, and hard rock. Working with producer Marshall Altman for the first time, Shepherd takes pains to make Lay It on Down feel like a classic rock record, recording on analog and keeping its ten tracks weighing in at a tight 41 minutes. Another old-fashioned hallmark flaunted on Lay It on Down is how the focus is on vibe, Shepherd digging into the grooves even when the song is a sepia-toned bit of folk-rock. Naturally, there is plenty of space for chops and solos, but Shepherd shows restraint, riding the rhythms of his Southern soul vamps, nocturnal riffs, backwoods picking, and gospel ballads. This variety, when melded with such tasteful execution, turns Lay It on Down into not only one of Shepherd's richest records but one of his best.

Rating 3,5 out of 5.

Stephen Thomas Erlewine - All Music Guide

Kenny Wayne Shepherd is already considered to be at the forefront of contemporary blues. This time around, Kenny applied his talents to writing by woodshedding with several prominent Nashville hit song-writing teams (Keith Stegall, Mark Selby & Tia Sillers, Marshall Altman, Dylan Altman & Danny Myrick). Marrying these songs with his trademark guitar-playing will help expand his already growing base. The album is produced by Marshall Altman (Natasha Bedingfield, Matt Nathanson, Kate Voegele, Amy Grant).


The Kenny Wayne Shepherd Band shoots wide on its upcoming eighth album Lay It On Down -- by design.

"I wanted to grab from several different genres," Shepherd tells Billboard. On Lay It On Down, due out Aug. 4, that means running the gamut from hard rockers such as "Baby Got Gone," soulful workouts like "Diamonds & Gold," the bluesy shuffles of "Down For Love" and "The Ride Of Your Life" and countrified ballads in the weepy "Hard Lesson Learned," "Louisiana Rain" and the title track, which is premiering exclusively below.

"The goal was to make a contemporary sounding record," Shepherd explains, "something that was new and fresh and obviously doesn't sound like many of my other records. The last record I did (2014's Goin' Home) was traditional blues, so on this one I needed to do some different things, and I think we did."

The gentle "Lay It On Down" -- which Shepherd co-wrote with "Blue On Black" collaborators Mark Selby and Tia Sillers -- certainly represents something different for Shepherd and company. "It's, like, a midtempo ballad, which surprises some people, but I love ballads," Shepherd says. "I grew up in the era of the power ballad. That was the biggest thing on the radio when I was a teenager, those rock n' roll ballads. So I'm a sucker for a good ballad and wanted to have one on this record." But there's more to "Lay It on Down" than might immediately be evident.

"This one is very complex," Shepherd says. "It's got a very significant lyric to it. It's personal. It's about someone I know very well; It's about a girl who has bought into the idea she's not good enough, and that's not the truth. Everyone else sees the beauty in her except her, so the guy in the song's trying to say, 'I wish you could see what I see.' The message in the song is, like, 'Believe in yourself. Don't buy into the voices in your head that want to drag you down.' I think that speaks to a lot of people in the world, too, not just who I'm singing the song about."

Despite the experimentation, Shepherd is confident that fans of his trademark blues-rock will not be disappointed. "That's the foundation of what I do. You hear that in all my music, and in all of the tracks on the record," he explains. But the other genre flavors put that root in a new context. "Drawing from these different genres and various musical influences, it enables me to take that blues foundation and put it in different directions and try different things with it, step outside the box a little bit," Shepherd says. "I really wanted to continually keep the fans interested in what we're doing and not be predictable."

Lay It On Down is also the second consecutive album Shepherd has recorded in his hometown of Shreveport, La., with producer Marshall Altman at Blade Studios. "I'm from Louisiana. That's my family there. That's where I explored my love and passion for this music," Shepherd notes. "The epicenter of my musical life is there. That's where I explored my love and passion for this music. So everything comes full circle, and it seemed like a natural place to do it. For as long as that place exists, I want to record there."

Gary Graff - 6/1/2017
© 2017 Billboard

Guitar-slinging blues rockers like Kenny Wayne Shepherd don’t typically get much respect from the singer-songwriter community. Perhaps that’s because many of them stick to well-worn tropes, both musically and lyrically, and are unable or unwilling to color outside those defined lines. But the best of the batch, whether it’s Hendrix, Stevie Ray Vaughan or more recently Gary Clark Jr., use their blues roots, amped up sound and six-string chops to add sizzle to original songs that would be just as impressive stripped down to acoustic guitar.

Shepherd understood this as far back as his second album, 1997’s Grammy-nominated, platinum-selling Trouble Is … That’s where the youngster — only 20 at the time — not only covered both Hendrix and Bob Dylan deep cuts, but was savvy enough to employ established Nashville-based songwriters such as the team of Mark Selby and Tia Sillers to crank out quality tunes like “Blue On Black.” Fast-forward two decades and Shepherd (possibly inspired by hanging out with an iconic songwriter like Stephen Stills in The Rides side project) continues to focus on superior tunes for his first album of originals in six years.

Shepherd made multiple Nashville trips to co-write with not only Selby and Sillers (who contribute the bittersweet, sympathetic acoustic ballad title track about a once-influential, now broken down woman), but Keith Stegall and Marshall Altman, the latter of whom also co-produced. The result is not only some terrific new material in the sweeping country/folk of “Hard Lesson Learned,” featuring pedal steel guitar and a dynamic Shepherd solo, and the gutsy funked-up “Nothing But the Night,” but also a handful of gritty yet creatively penned blues-rockers such as the horn bolstered “Diamonds & Gold” and the opening riff-rocking “Baby Got Gone.”

Even when the lyrics aren’t exactly up to Stills’, let alone Dylan or Hendrix’s, standards (“She’ll light you up/ like a 220 socket” and “She’s too hot/ I can’t stand it/ what she’s got I gotta have it now” both from the sophomoric “She’s $$$”), the inventive changes and Shepherd’s veteran band featuring ex-Vaughan drummer Chris Layton, lay down an irresistible tough and occasionally tender groove that will satisfy the guitarist’s longtime fan base.

Largely recorded live in the studio with minimal overdubbing in Shepherd’s home town of Shreveport, Louisiana, (we’ll forgive the clichéd “Louisiana Rain,” a Selby-Sillers original and not the Tom Petty classic or Tony Joe White’s composition) the music is diverse and the songs so consistently strong that even by-the-numbers blues rockers such as the simplistic Stevie Ray Vaughan riff happy “Down for Love” feels natural and inspired, if not exactly ground breaking.

There’s sufficient nitro-burning, blues-drenched shredding to keep live audiences playing their air guitars. But Shepherd’s obvious attention to and insistence on exceptional material with musical, if perhaps not always lyrical, inventiveness continues to impress, and 22 years into his career raises him and Lay It On Down above his plentiful competition. 

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Hal Horowitz - August 1, 2017
© 2017 ForASong Media

Twenty-three years into his career, modern blues star Kenny Wayne Shepherd had a single overarching goal for his eighth studio album, Lay It On Down: “I wanted to make the best record I’ve ever made,” he says. “To do that, I had to get out of my comfort zone. I worked with a new producer, Marshall Altman, and I wrote with a bunch of people I’ve never worked with before. I put myself in situations where I had to react differently, and that made the whole thing pretty exciting.”

Shepherd’s last solo album, 2014’s Goin’ Home, was an all-covers, all-blues affair, but Lay It On Down is comprised of all-original material that spans country (“Hard Lesson Learned”), horn-infused R&B (“Diamonds & Gold”) and rootsy rock and roll (“Baby Got Gone”).

“I went in a more contemporary direction on this album,” he explains. “It shows diversity within the band but also the genre of blues. Blues is the foundation, but it runs deep. It’s there in country and soul. You don’t have to play straight blues to be playing a form of blues.”

Over the years, the guitarist has held his own beside players like Joe Satriani, Steve Vai and his Rides bandmate Stephen Stills, but he insists that flash playing took a backseat to in-the-pocket grooves on Lay It On Down.

“I didn’t feel the need to show people every lick that I know on these songs,” he says. “Sometimes that’s appropriate, but other times you play to the material. My objective here was to put across great tunes and great stories. But there’s a few tunes where I smoke on guitar—‘Ride of Your Life’ definitely called for a lot of heat.”

While Shepherd doesn’t label himself a purist, he and Altman went old school and recorded the new album to analog tape.

“That was really about making ourselves happy with the end result,” Shepherd says. “Whether listeners can detect the subtle differences with tape, I don’t know, but we feel that we’re giving the people something that’s sonically superior. And that impacts how you play while you work, so in the end the product is just better.”

JOE BOSSO - JUL 28, 2017
© 2017 NewBay Media

Lay It On Down, the ninth album from five-time Grammy nominee and critically acclaimed guitarist Kenny Wayne Shepherd, is out August 4 on Concord Records. Recorded at Echophone Studios in Shepherd's hometown of Shreveport, Louisiana and produced by Shepherd with Marshall Altman (Matt Nathanson, Natasha Bedingfield, Kate Voegele), the album was largely recorded live in the studio to analog tape.

Shepherd's band on Lay It On Down features his long-time lead vocalist Noah Hunt, the rhythm section from Shepherd's supergroup side project The RIDES, Chris Layton (drums) and Kevin McCormick (bass), and keyboardist Jimmy McGorman. "I'm proud of the album we have delivered to the fans and I think they'll be excited by what they hear," notes Shepherd. "The band we've assembled did a fantastic job bringing these songs to life and conveying the musical message to the listener. Now we are looking forward to bringing this new music to the live show to watch it develop even more." Shepherd further discusses the writing/recording process in the new album's video trailer, watch/share it at https://youtu.be/xW6HfiJ-WYQ.

Shepherd will celebrate the album's release with a U.S. tour that kicks off August 9 in Westbury, NY. See below for a list of dates; additional shows to be announced shortly. Lay It On Down finds Shepherd two decades into a recording career that began when he was 16. Shepherd has sold millions of albums worldwide and, in addition to his five Grammy nominations, he has won two Billboard Music Awards, a pair of Orville H. Gibson awards, the Blues Foundation's Keeping The Blues Alive award and two Blues Music awards. He's had six #1 blues albums and a string of #1 mainstream rock singles, and his acclaimed documentary project 10 Days Out: Blues from the Backroads was the top-selling blues album of 2007. Shepherd's last release, 2014's Goin' Home (Concord Records), debuted at #25 on Billboard's Top 200 chart and spent several weeks at #1 on the Billboard Blues chart.

Music News Desk - May 8, 2017 
© 2017 Wisdom Digital Media

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