Live On

by: Kenny Wayne Shepherd

Being a teenage blues guitar prodigy is a double-edged sword. Stunning technique brings attention, but also criticism that it's all style and no soul. This criticism plagued Kenny Wayne Shepherd since his popular debut album, Ledbetter Heights, and it's warranted to a certain extent. It didn't help that Shepherd so strongly recalled Stevie Ray Vaughan. It also didn't help that some of his material was a little too slick, appealing as much to album rock as to blues-rock audiences. By the time of his third album, 1999's Live On, he had begun to reconcile these two sides of his personality, but the best thing about the record is that it's tougher and stronger than its two predecessors. There's still a fair amount of crossover -- a Hendrix cover and a cover of Fleetwood Mac's "Oh Well" -- but Shepherd not only seems to be developing a style of his own, the playing of his band has become grittier, or at least it's being captured better on record. Shepherd can still fall prey to excess, but not as often as he used to. He's figuring out how to restrain himself, and his music is all the better for it. ~ Stephen Thomas Erlewine

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