Kenny Wayne Shepherd
There are few artists whose names are synonymous with one instrument and how it's played in service to an entire genre.
Utter the phrase "young blues rock guitarist" within earshot of anyone with even a cursory knowledge of the modern musical vanguard and the first name they are most likely to respond with will be Kenny Wayne Shepherd. The Louisiana born axeman and songsmith has sold millions of albums while throwing singles into the Top 10, shining a light on the rich blues of the past and forging ahead with his own modern twist on a classic sound he has embodied since his teens.
In a 20-year recording career that began when he was just 16, Shepherd has established himself as an immensely popular recording artist, a consistently in-demand live act and an influential force in a worldwide resurgence of interest in the blues.
From television performances on The Tonight Show with Jay Leno, The Late Show with David Letterman, Jimmy Kimmel Live and Late Night with Jimmy Fallon (amongst others) to features in Rolling Stone, Vanity Fair, Maxim Magazine, Blender, Spin, USA Today and more, his musical career has been nothing short of phenomenal.
At 16 years old, he signed his first record deal and burst onto the national scene with the release of his 1995 debut album Ledbetter Heights, which produced the radio hits "Deja Voodoo," "Born with a Broken Heart" and "Shame, Shame, Shame." His relentless touring and success on rock radio helped to drive the album to Platinum sales status. His 1998 sophomore effort Trouble Is... also went Platinum, yielding such radio hits as "Blue on Black," "True Lies" and "Somehow, Somewhere, Someway." 1999's Live On spawned the radio hits "In 2 Deep," "Shotgun Blues" and "Last Goodbye."
2004's The Place You're In was a blistering rock record and was followed up by 2007's ambitious 10 Days Out: Blues from the Backroads, for which Shepherd and his band traveled throughout the American South to record with such vintage blues greats as B.B. King, Clarence "Gatemouth" Brown, Hubert Sumlin, Pinetop Perkins and David "Honeyboy" Edwards on their home turf. 2010 saw the release of Shepherd's long-awaited first live album, Live! In Chicago, recorded at Chicago's House of Blues during the all-star Legends tour and featuring guest appearances by such blues legends as Hubert Sumlin and Willie "Big Eyes" Smith. The live disc debuted at #1 on Billboard's Blues chart, as did 2011's How I Go. In 2013, Shepherd further expanded his musical horizons by teaming with veteran rockers Stephen Stills and Barry Goldberg to form THE RIDES, whose first album Can't Get Enough helped to expand Shepherd's audience as well as his musical resume. 2014 saw the release of Goin' Home, Shepherd's sixth # 1 debut on the Billboard Blues charts. Goin' Home features several talented friends who shared Shepherd's enthusiasm for the project's back-to-basics ethos. Those guests include fellow guitar icons Joe Walsh, Warren Haynes, Keb' Mo' and Robert Randolph, longtime friend Ringo Starr, Fabulous Thunderbirds frontman Kim Wilson, the Rebirth Brass Band and co-producer Blade's father, Pastor Brady Blade Sr., who lends a bracing dose of preaching to Shepherd's version of Bo Diddley's' "You Can't Judge a Book by the Cover." In the months since its release, Shepherd and his band have toured the world extensively blazing a fresh trail for the historical American art form in the 21st Century.
CHRISTONE "KINGFISH" INGRAM
Since the release of Kingfish, his Grammy-nominated 2019 Alligator Records debut, guitarist, vocalist and songwriter Christone “Kingfish” Ingram has quickly become the defining blues voice of his generation. From his hometown of Clarksdale, Mississippi to stages around the world, the now 22-year-old has already headlined two national tours and performed with friends including Vampire Weekend, Jason Isbell and Buddy Guy (with whom he appeared on Austin City Limits). He was interviewed by Sir Elton John on his Apple Music podcast, Rocket Hour, and recently released a duet with Bootsy Collins. In January 2021, Ingram was simultaneously on the covers of both Guitar World and DownBeat magazines, and graced the cover of Living Blues in late 2020. Rolling Stone declared, “Kingfish is one of the most exciting young guitarists in years, with a sound that encompasses B.B. King, Jimi Hendrix and Prince.”
In the two years since Kingfish was released, there have been major events that have altered his life both personally and professionally. “There has been much change, happiness and despair in my life,” Ingram says of his last two years. Right as his career was taking off, he lost his mother and biggest champion, the late Princess Pride Ingram. Christone toured for 13 months non-stop, until the pandemic halted live performances and forced him to take stock. As he was thinking about the man he was becoming and the new directions his life was taking, he began writing songs for his next album, 662. The number 662 is the telephone area code for Ingram’s northern Mississippi home, and it first came into use the same year he was born—1999.
“The world was introduced to me with Kingfish,” Ingram says of his chart-topping debut. “Now with 662, I want the world to hear and meet a different, more personal side of me.” The album—recorded in Nashville and co-written and produced (as was Kingfish) by Grammy-winner Tom Hambridge—features 13 songs displaying many sides of Ingram’s dynamic personality, as well as his one-of-a-kind guitar and vocal skills. According to Ingram, “662 is a direct reflection of my growth as a musician, a songwriter, a bandleader, and as a young man. This album was written during the pandemic, shortly after I returned home from a whirlwind year and a half of touring and promoting Kingfish. It was an incredible time of change and growth, moments both good and bad, and I am a better and stronger person for it.”
CHARLIE MUSSELWHITE BIO // 2019 GRAMMY Nominee NO MERCY IN THIS LAND with Ben Harper 2014 GRAMMY Winner GET UP with Ben Harper // 13 - time GRAMMY Nominee // 33 - time Blues Music Award Winner // Many - time Living Blues Award Winner Charlie Musselwhite’s journey through the blues was from his birth in Mississippi to Memphis, Chicago and California. Arriving in Chicago in the early sixties, he was just in time for the epochal blues revival. In 1966 at the age of 22 he recorded the landmark Stand Back! to r ave reviews. A precipitous relocation to San Francisco in 1967, where his album was being played on underground radio, found him welcomed into the counterculture scene around the Fillmore West as an authentic purveyor of the real deal blues. Fifty years of nonstop touring, performing and recording have reaped huge rewards. Charlie Musselwhite is living proof that great music only gets better with age. This man cut his (musical) teeth alongside Muddy Waters, Howling Wolf and everyone on the South side of C hicago in the early 1960’s. Thank your lucky stars that he is still with us telling the truth with a voice and harp tone like no other. More than 20 albums later he is at the top of his game, a revered elder statesman of the blues nowhere near ready to ha ng up his harps, his depth of expression as a singer and an instrumentalist unexcelled and only growing deeper. Charlie has been collaborating with the world’s finest Artists for many years, including Ben Harper, Cyndi Lauper, Eddie Vedder, Tom Waits, Bon nie Raitt, The Blind Boys of Alabama, Gov’t Mule, INXS, Mickey Hart and Japan’s Kodo Drummers, George Thorogood, Eliades Ochoa, Cat Stevens and personal friend and best man at his wedding John Lee Hooker. Musselwhite, more than any other harmonica player of his generation, can rightfully lay claim to inheriting the mantle of many of the great harp players that came before him with music as dark as Mississippi mud and as uplifting as the blue skies of California. In an era when the term legendary gets appli ed to auto - tuned pop stars, this singular blues harp player, singer, songwriter and guitarist has earned and deserves to be honored as a true master of American classic vernacular music.
ALLY VENABLE BIO:
This is no time for faint hearts. The pandemic might have silenced the music scene, shuttered the live circuit and divided artists from their fans. But with Heart Of Fire, Texas’s favorite new gunslinger Ally Venable is coming off the ropes swinging. Defying dark times and rolling up the amps, this fourth release from the acclaimed singer-songwriter is a record to rattle your speakers and signpost better times ahead. “My vision was to really spread a positive message of love,” says Venable. “The world needs that right now.”
If Heart Of Fire finds Venable giving the globe some much-needed love, then the feeling is entirely mutual. Still in her early twenties, the guitarist’s breakneck two decades have moved as fast as her fingers, her path winding from childhood church choirs to the teenage influence of local heroes like Stevie Ray Vaughan and Miranda Lambert. Early releases No Glass Shoes (2016) and Puppet Show (2018) earned her international fans, Top 10 chart placings and ETX Awards, but it was 2019’s #2 Billboard-charting Texas Honey and house-rocking sets on that year’s Blues Caravan tour that sent her stratospheric. Now, with Venable’s fanbase snaking further around the block every time she blows into town, Texas roots icon and Texas Honey producer Mike Zito is in no doubt: “Ally is the future of blues and the crossover music of American roots-rock.”
Not even a global pandemic could derail her momentum. Working at the Bessie Blue Studio in Stantonville, Tennessee last February with world-renowned producer Jim Gaines, Heart Of Fire finds Venable laser-focused on her songcraft, challenging herself to write with unguarded honesty, even if it hurts. “On this album, I really wanted to create a tone of overcoming your struggles and persevering through them,” she explains.
Like any battle, this record gets loud. Anyone who has left an Ally Venable show with ringing ears will come expecting rip-it-up guitar work, and Heart Of Fire is a lovely way to burn. In a world of electronic pop, this old-soul gunslinger riffs up a storm on the Led Zeppelin-worthy sting of Hard Change and Do It In Heels, revs up the slinky hook of Sad Situation and drives the title track’s intro with a heavy-booted wah lick. “That song is about being in a state of sadness,” she explains, “and someone comes along and brings you out of it, and then nobody is able to take out your flame.”
Guest Kenny Wayne Shepherd, tears up Bring On The Pain. As Venable says: “That song is about loving someone, staying true to yourself during the bad times and saying, ‘No matter what’s going on, my love won't change’. Kenny is one of my heroes, so I’m very honored he said yes to be a part of the song.”
While nobody is better at squeezing fresh juice from the blues-rock genre, Venable’s songwriting frequently forks into leftfield. There’s the chain-gang stomp of Hateful Blues, its lyric cursing a cruel lover (‘Oh, my love has been abused/and that’s why I’ve got these hateful blues’). There’s the pace-changing cover of Bill Withers’ classic Use Me, reborn here with congas, rubber band bass and a grooving lick. And don’t miss the impossibly wistful Road To Nowhere, with Southern rock great Devon Allman dovetailing with Venable on the chorus harmonies. “Devon jumped right into the song, elevated it and brought it to life,” she remembers. “His vision for the song aligned perfectly with mine, and I’m so happy with how it turned out.”
The same could be said for Heart Of Fire. Defiant, passionate, honest and raw, this is the record these times demand, from an artist who refuses to wait for the storm to pass, but prefers to dance in the rain. “My goal for this album was to give an outlet for people,” Venable considers. “That’s really where the core of these songs comes from…”