Guitar hero Kenny Wayne Shepherd has been one of the biggest stars in the blues world for half of his life. In 1999, at age 21, he played the Van Wezel Performing Arts Hall and packed the place. Noah Hunt handled all the vocal duties that night and remains an integral part of the Kenny Wayne Shepherd Band. But Shepherd will be singing, too, when his group headlines the first Florida Blue Blues and Music Festival at Sarasota Fairgrounds on Saturday.
Credit the 36-year-old Shepherd’s emerging vocal confidence to his time with The Rides. The blues-rock super group also includes singer/guitarist Stephen Stills and Electric Flag keyboardist Barry Goldberg. They recorded the delightfully loose and rocking album “Can’t Get Enough” in just seven days last December and released the collection in late August.
“For us, it was just about being prepared and the caliber of musicians involved and trying not to take it too seriously,” Shepherd says from his Los Angeles home during a phone interview earlier this month. “We wanted to stay true to the original genre of the blues and play live together in the studio.”
“Can’t Get Enough” mixes originals penned by Stills, Shepherd and Goldberg with covers ranging from classic blues to the proto-punk anthem “Search and Destroy.” The song, originally sung by its co-writer Iggy Pop, first appeared on The Stooges’ 1973 album “Raw Power.”
In December, producer Jerry Harrison (former keyboardist for the Talking Heads) had the idea for The Rides to perform “Search and Destroy.” It features Shepherd on lead vocals and is one of the most arresting tracks on “Can’t Get Enough.”
“That was one of Jerry Harrison’s biggest contributions to the album,” Shepherd says. “Stephen and Barry didn’t want to do it at first. Stephen said, ‘I don’t like punk and they don’t like me.’ But it was a great thing that everybody checked their egos at the door; because they still put the song down and gave it their best shot and the end result – now I think it’s one of Barry and Stephen’s favorites.”
Following a mere four days of rehearsal, The Rides spent September touring the country in support of “Can’t Get Enough.” The reviews were positive. While the dueling lead guitars received the most praise, Shepherd’s lead vocal turn on “Search and Destroy” was also among the noted highlights. Expect Shepherd’s experience playing with The Rides to be reflected in his own band’s upcoming show in Sarasota.
“I share the frontman responsibility with Stephen in regards to singing and playing guitar,” Shepherd says of The Rides. “I sing lead vocals in my band but not as much as with The Rides, and the stage volume is a lot quieter with The Rides.
“I really enjoyed singing every night and want to reincorporate songs into my own band where I sing more and try and work on the stage volume, and get all those dynamics more as we did with The Rides."
Florida Blue Blues and Music Festival
Slideshow of complete lineup with performance times
11 a.m. (gates) Saturday; Sarasota Fairgrounds, 3000 Ringling Blvd., Sarasota; $27-$75 (VIP); 800-514-3849; floridabluesandmusicfest.com.