Home Albums Album Review : Kenny Wayne Shepherd – Dirt On My Diamonds Vol 1

Album Review : Kenny Wayne Shepherd – Dirt On My Diamonds Vol 1

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Review by Taf Rock for MPM

It’s been a while – four long years – since Kenny Wayne Shepherd released an all-new studio album, 2019’s glorious The Traveler album.

Kenny’s last release was the 25th anniversary reworking of his seminal album Trouble Is, albeit a total re-recording of said album, but the tracks contained therein were already familiar to Kenny Wayne aficionados so fresh material from the Louisiana born blues rock guitar slinger is long overdue. 

DIRT ON MY DIAMONDS was conceived in Muscle Shoals, Alabama at the legendary FAME Studios as Kenny got together with his favourite writers to concoct a whole bunch of original songs, seven of which make their way onto this album, volume two of the project waiting in the wings to emerge at some point in the near future.

This is the third consecutive album upon which Shepherd has employed Marshall Altman at the production helm – a successful and productive partnership which commenced with 2017’s LAY IT DOWN.

Six years during which Kenny has diversified his sound beyond the realms of the blues world, Kenny describing the evolution of his recordings as like chapters in a book, this current album sounding fresh, modern and uplifting – each track polished until they sparkle like shining diamonds whilst leaving a few rough edges, just enough dirt on them to deliver real raw music dealing with the full range of human emotions.

Even though Kenny is an artist known as a bluesman his work is never constrained by the genre, each track designed to bring a smile to the listeners face regardless of the subject matter.

A key element of this evolving sound sees Kenny increasingly taking the lead vocal on a large part of this eight track opus whilst still leaving plenty of opportunities for long-time vocalist Noah Hunt, who has sung with Kenny since the initial release of the aforementioned Trouble Is album in 1997, to step up to the microphone.

We open proceedings with the album title track DIRT ON MY DIAMONDS. Throughout life we strive to achieve the impossible – perfection. However it’s the imperfections and ‘flaws’ that make each of us individual, the ‘crack in my window, chip in my paint … scratch on the finish’.

Immediately we are hit with a big sound as the horn section, used to great effect on The Traveler album, makes a welcome return to the fold and features on the bulk of this album. The vocal kicks in ‘like a Mona Lisa smiling, I can’t get enough’. The big chunky riff of the track barrels along before Kenny lets rip with the first solo of the album.

SWEET & LOW – A somewhat strange opening to the first single from this album as a brief intro commences sounding like something out of a gunslinging western movie, another example of Kenny pushing back the boundaries beyond the constraints of the blues genre he is associated with. Over as soon as it has begun we are hit with the almighty booming riff of a tune packed to the rafters with modern effects.

DJ scratches ‘cough and hiccup’ amongst background moaning throughout the verses of this quite contagious number. Kenny taking the lead vocal here. Searching everywhere from Bel Air, through Baton Rouge, Miami, Memphis, Colorado and even Monte Carlo for his ‘sweet and low mamma…’ because ‘ain’t nothing any sweeter than loving you’.

A fresh vibrant funky grooving sound with Chris ‘Whipper’ Layton providing solid pounding drum work, whilst the intensity of Kenny’s breathtaking lead break at the track’s midpoint gets us ‘high on mountain air’. 

BEST OF TIMES – An intense bass sound accompanies Kenny and his wah wah pedal as we ease into a song about the seemingly endless struggle most of us face as we work hard to earn money and keep a roof over our heads brought into focus by Noah’s vocal ‘mom and daddy working overtime’. The big sound continues with horns combining with the bass riff, interspersing the stop start vocal lines.

Kenny providing Hendrix like licks as Noah continues ‘bills to pay and mouths to feed’. Kenny takes the lead vocal on the chorus leaving no doubt as to his favoured manufacturer of guitar ‘so much sweat on my red bandana, my hammer is a Stratocaster’. I can hear the marketing men calling already!! The combined vocals of Kenny and Noah’s deeper richer tones complement each other perfectly as they trade lines with Noah providing the vocal on verses and Kenny taking the chorus. ‘This ole van won’t go no faster, sometimes we make dollars we make dimes … playing every dive to the Mississippi line’.

YOU CAN’T LOVE ME –  but you can certainly love this tune as keyboards and Kenny Wayne on vocal/guitar combine to deliver a beautiful stripped back ballad in pop rock fashion almost Bryan Adams like at times. Kenny delivers the message. ‘You can’t love me, if you don’t love you.’ If you’re not happy with who you are how can you expect someone else to love you. Plenty of radio airplay is guaranteed for this tune superbly sung by Kenny himself featuring the briefest yet sweetest of solos.

Noah is a MAN ON A MISSION. He ‘don’t believe in wasting time’ and comes to the fore accompanied by the returning horn section providing the big sound that is the foundation of this album. ‘That cotton candy kiss, sure tastes good here on my lips’. Relieved of lead vocal duties Kenny is free to provide an exquisite lengthy solo continuing with tasty licks through to the finale of this upbeat track.

‘It’s getting late, have you seen my mates?’ enquires Noah. ‘It’s seven o’clock … I wanna rock’. A party atmosphere ensues as Elton John’s SATURDAY NIGHT’S ALRIGHT FOR FIGHTING gets the KWS treatment. In tribute to the recently retired Rocketman Kenny and the band ‘get about as oiled as a diesel train’ as they slip a cover of the classic from 1973’s Yellow Brick Road album in amongst the album’s eight tracks.

Elton’s original an upbeat number featuring a rocking guitar sound and so it remains, as the guitar is ramped up to the max. The band have ‘had it with your discipline’ and combine to ‘get a little action in’, rocking out, having fun as Noah belts the lyrics out.

BAD INTENTIONS – ‘Good ole boy’ Kenny is back on vocals as keyboards, horns and a huge riff provide the backbone to this track. ‘The kind of guy your mamma warned you about’ Kenny lets rip with several wild out of control guitar solos, ‘never the kind to take his foot off the gas’ Kenny is at his extravagant best right to the very last note here.

EASE MY MIND – Kenny is a blues player at heart and reminds us of this on the album closer, a seven minute slice of pure blues power. A slow rhythm and delightful keys accompany Kenny as Noah ‘closes his weary eyes and worries what tomorrow’s gonna bring’. We have come full circle here as our journey ends with a typical Kenny Wayne style of song as he ‘grabs his ‘ole guitar … and makes it sing’ unleashing the album’s bluest blues guitar.

Lush keyboards providing the backdrop as Kenny excels, displaying his great talent for the listener one final time. ‘Ain’t nothing as empty … than a house that was a happy home.’ Blues at its finest leaving this home very happy indeed.

An album that demonstrates Kenny’s versatility. Not afraid to push the boundaries. His vocals the revelation of the whole album as the band cross into multiple musical genres, the brass section helping to create a big sound for the majority of this album. 

It’s been a while – four long years – but it’s well worth the wait.

Pre-order the album here: https://lnk.to/KennyWayneShepherd

Autographed by Kenny CD & Vinyl pre-order here https://kwsband.info/DOMD-Collection

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