Review | Kenny Wayne Shepherd – Dirt On My Diamonds Volume 1
Provogue Records / MLG
After the really excellent live-registration CD/DVD ‘Straight To You Live’ and the studio-albums ‘Lay It On Down’ and ‘The Traveler’ guitarist/singer Kenny Wayne Shepherd returns with a new studio effort. Accompanied by super vocalist Noah Hunt (he has been in this band since day one), top drummer Chris Layton (Storyville/Stevie Ray Vaughan), new bass player Kevin McCormick and keyboardist Joe Krown. On ‘Straight To You Live’ Shepherd was also accompanied by a small horn section to add some extra colour to the proceedings. As a result on ‘Dirt On My Diamonds Volume 1’ several songs have been invaded by saxophone and trumpet.
DIRECTION JOE BONAMASSA
Mister Shepherd has never been afraid to mix it up on his albums, looking for new sounds but also making sure that some good old blues rock elements stayed intact so that his core fans would have something to cherish as well. Listening to this album it seems to me that Shepherd is moving more towards the direction of Joe Bonamassa. Integrating horn sections into a more contemporary sound. Nothing wrong with that as long as you stay recognisable. And that is certainly the case here. There is still plenty of guitar work to be enjoyed. But even for me, who has been following this artist since his first album ‘Ledbetter Heights’, it is a matter of getting used to the evident changes. Although in some songs they are subtle.
During the years the role of Kenny Wayne Shepherd as singer has grown a lot. He has become better but even improving as singer he just never ever catches the level that Noah Hunt reaches. His voice is warmer, bluesier and better suited for the genre. Best example on this album is ,,Ease On My Mind’’. A stunning bluesy rock ballad with superb singing. The song is being driven by a lazy beat as only Chris Layton can produce while the guitar acrobatics of Kenny Wayne Shepherd here are truly amazing. This is for me the direction that this band should follow. But that is not completely the case here. Shepherd sings more than half of the songs on this album while Hunt gets (at least that how it seems to me) a slighter role.
I can appreciate the up-tempo version of the Elton John classic ,,Saturday Night’s Alright For Fighting’’ as it is energetic as hell. But songs such as ,,Sweet & Low’’ or ,,Best Of Times’’ showcase a slightly different approach. More contemporary, less bluesy perhaps but just rocking enough to keep the listener’s attention. But all in all, I cannot shake the feeling that this record is not as good as earlier attempts. I have been playing this record for a few weeks now and the penny has not completely dropped. Will it ever?
A few more tracks in the vein of ,,Ease On My Mind’’ would have made this album a contender for blues rock album of the year. I am sure the record will find its way into the blues charts although I have my doubts about this different approach. A change can be good but I found this band better with just drums, guitar, keys and vocals.
Release date: 17 December 2023