Clearwater, FL. (February 10th, 2023)
When it comes to modern blues albums, Trouble is by Kenny Wayne Shepherd stands tall. This album brought him to the forefront of not only the genre, but to the rock world as well. Since then he has released multiple albums and won Grammy awards as well. Twenty five years later, Kenny Wayne Shepherd decided to give his fans a treat by going out on tour to celebrate the silver anniversary of Trouble Is. The tour was supposed to be a small run to select cities. But the response was so great that he decided to extend the tour. Along the way, he has had different artists kick the night off. Tonight he brought along another great blues guitarist, Samantha Fish.
The choice of Samantha Fish as the opening act was a wise one. With her top notch guitar skills and brilliant voice she was a perfect fit for the tour. As she has built up a well earned reputation, the crowd came early as no one wanted to miss a second of the show. So it was no surprise the raucous crowd cheered wildly when she hit the stage with her band. With little fanfare and her cigar box guitar in hand she launched into “Bulletproof”. Deftly switching between the two mics on stage, one for the lo-fi parts, she clearly brought her ‘A’ game to the stage. Her slide work on her cigar box guitar had the audience hanging on each note. Indeed this night would be packed with some wicked guitar work.
While Samantha Fish might have been the opening act opening act, over the course of her eight song set she treated it like this was her night alone. She treated the audience to a smattering of songs from Kill Or Be Kind, Black Wind Howlin’, and her latest effort Faster. She also included some incredible covers as well. While she is well known for her work with her electric guitars, tonight she pulled a change-up. Her band left the stage, she grabbed an acoustic guitar, and performed a moving version of Gladys Night’s “If I Were Your Woman”. It really showcased the true depth of her abilities. As with all the other songs she covered on this night, she made them her own while holding true to the spirit of the song.
Finally it was time for the man of the hour to take things over. Yes, Shreveport Louisiana’s very own Kenny Wayne Shepherd was now set to hit the stage. He made his way to the stage with his well-worn trusty Stratocaster nicknamed “The One” looking serene and relaxed as if nothing special was happening. But the moment his pick hit the first string it was as if a switch was flipped. The ferocity in which he played the title track of Trouble Is.. was something to behold. You didn’t have to be an aficionado of the blues to know you were witnessing something special. His long time singer Noah Hunt joined the band for the second number “Somehow, Somewhere, Someway”. The combination of Kenny’s fiery playing and Hunts smooth voice was timeless. Time might have fast forwarded but these two sounded like they just recorded the album.
The sold out crowd at Ruth Eckerd Hall clearly was enjoying every minute of the show. While blues shows can draw a more sedate crowd that tend to internalize their deep appreciation for their beloved genre, after each of the first two songs the packed house was cheering wildly. Of course he continued on with his quest to pay tribute to Trouble Is, his watershed album, albeit not in the order it was recorded. No matter the song they played, it was performed brilliantly. From “Everything Is Broken” to the final song of the set “Slow Ride” each sounded just as visceral and fresh as the day it was recorded.
Make no mistake, this wasn’t just an album play through. Kenny would take time throughout the show to talk about certain tracks on the album. When he was introducing “I Found Love (When I Found You)” he related that this song had become popular with weddings and that a fan even proposed at a show as he was playing that song. As he was set to play “Blue On Black” he let everyone know that the band Five Finger Death Punch reached out to him for permission to use the song. Of course he not only agreed but played on it as well. In addition all the proceeds from that song were donated to charity.
After a quick intermission, Kenny and his band returned to the stage and played two songs from his album The Traveler. The first being “Woman Like You” and then “I want you”. As this was the last night that Samantha Fish would be on the tour, all the fans were in for a treat as Kenny brought her out to join him on of his songs “Diamonds & Gold”, then on a cover of the Elmore James song “Talk To Me Baby”. During “Diamonds & Gold” they really did a marvelous job stretching the song out into a stellar performance. First bassist Kevin McCormick stepped into the limelight for his time to strut his stuff with a killer solo. Of course, Samantha Fish had her time to shine as well with a fiery solo. Finally keyboardist Joe Krown got in on the action as he tickled the ivories not only to the delight of the audience, but the band was watching in awe as well. The night ended with a rousing cover of the B. B. King song “You Done Lost Your Good Thing Now”.
If there ever was an album worthy of celebration it’s Trouble Is. Not only did it truly launch a young bluesman named Kenny Wayne Shepherd into the stratosphere, but it had so many enduring hit songs. To hear him play these songs with just as much fire as when they were released made for an evening of sonic bliss. The tour continues on through March and ends April first, so grab a ticket and celebrate this album along with Kenny Wayne Shepherd while you can.
Ruth Eckerd Hall:
Kenny Wayne Shepherd: