Shepherd to perform ‘Trouble Is’ album at Palladium tour stop


By Alan Sculley

Kenny Wayne Shepherd’s recently released DVD, “Straight To You Live,” is the first concert DVD he’s released in a career that stretches more than 25 years. But it’s not like he’s been trying to avoid doing such a project.

“The fans have been asking for a live DVD for decades,” said Shepherd, who will perform at 8 p.m. April 16 at the Palladium at the Center for the Performing Arts in Carmel. “We record audio every night, but we’ve done a number of shows with video as well. And for one reason or another, we just never felt like we had the right night.”

Kenny Wayne Shepherd set to perform at 8 p.m. April 16 at the Palladium at the Center for the Performing Arts in Carmel. (Photo courtesy of the Center for the Performing Arts)

It’s possible this concert, which was filmed in Germany for broadcast on the legendary concert series “Rockpalast,” might have stayed on the shelf, too, if it hadn’t been followed a few months later by the COVID-19 pandemic.

“It was a real honor to be asked to do it,” Shepherd said of “Rockpalast.” “We watched it back and we were like, ‘Wow, it’s actually a really great performance.’ And then we really didn’t think much more about it until COVID happened. Then we started realizing that people are not going to be able to come and see us for a while, and they’ve been asking for a live concert for years, and we have this.

“The audio is great, the performance is great, the camera work is great. Maybe we should put this together and get it out to them so they can watch it in the comfort of their own homes until we can get back out on the road.”

Shortly after the Rockpalast concert, Shepherd and the band went into the studio to record a new album, which was finished just before the pandemic hit and the world shut down. Shepherd said he’ll wait until closer to the release date of the next studio album to debut those songs. Instead, Shepherd and his band are marking the 25th anniversary of Shepherd’s second album, 1997’s “Trouble Is,” by playing the entire album on the tour.

One new song, though, that may well be included in Shepherd’s shows is “Hit ‘Em Back,” a collaboration between Shepherd and blues singer-songwriter Shemekia Copeland that also features guest appearances by lap steel guitar player Robert Randolph and veteran blues drummer Tony Coleman.

Copeland, daughter of the late blues artist Johnny Copeland, reached out to Shepherd to write music to the lyrics she and co-writer John Hahn had completed. The lyrics have a strong and multi-dimensional message calling for unity, respect and cooperation, while also pointing up the divisiveness that exists in today’s society overall and the blues community in particular. Shepherd wrote muscular and soulful blues-rock music to accompany the lyrics, which was what he felt the song demanded.

“I thought the song needed musically to be big and powerful because I feel the message is powerful,” Shepherd said.

Despite a quarter-century-plus history with the blues, Shepherd, who exploded onto the scene at age 17 with his 1995 million-selling debut album, “Ledbetter Heights,” said he had not encountered the kind of anger and divisiveness within the blues community that are referenced in “Hit ‘Em Back.”

“Frankly, I thought of the community having always been very inclusive just up until recently,” he said. “And a lot of things have been revealed to me that I just was unaware of but have obviously been going on in the blues community for a while. I had no idea, so we thought it was time to address that because a lot of people are trying to use situations to divide people, and united we stand, divided we fall, right?

“We’re all here in the same music community and we do ourselves much more of a service if we get along and appreciate one another than trying to draw lines in the sand.”