Kenny Wayne Shepherd Keeping the Blues Alive
The #1 Album on Billboard's Top Blues Albums chart for 2007, Ten Days Out: Blues From The Backroads chronicles the journey of renowned blues and rock guitarist Kenny Wayne Shepherd—along with a film crew, a portable recording studio and producer Jerry Harrison (Talking Heads)—through a ten-day journey into the heart of the American South.
Directed by Noble Jones, Ten Days Out captures the stories of some of America's best-known blues artists including B.B. King, Clarence "Gatemouth" Brown and Honeyboy Edwards as well as some of the genre's lesser-known talents. Shepherd is joined by longtime collaborator and vocalist Noah Hunt as well as friends Chris Layton and Tommy Shannon who make up the esteemed rhythm section Double Trouble (Stevie Ray Vaughan's longtime band). Shepherd and his team immersed themselves in the environments, which shaped these essential blues musicians, talking, recording and performing in kitchens, living rooms, front porches and local clubs. The goal was to get to know these amazing artists and to produce intimate recordings in intimate settings maintaining authenticity—no overdubs were used. "What happened is what you hear," says Shepherd, "We kept it as real as possible." This historic trip culminated in a once in a life time performance at a church in Salina, Kansas where Shepherd and friends were joined by the remaining members of Howlin' Wolf and Muddy Waters' bands at the aptly named Church at Blue Heaven Studios.
"A project like this, with all these great people, it's not about me—it's about the music," says Shepherd, "and about the people who inspired me to pick up an instrument and make music. You've got to listen to what they sing or write about, and you'll hear the people behind the music, the players behind the blues. And that's what the blues is about—the lives these people led, and that we are living today."
Since the making of Ten Days Out: Blues From The Backroads six of the featured musicians—Etta Baker, Henry Townsend, Wild Child Butler, Neal Pattman, Cootie Stark, and Clarence "Gatemouth" Brown—have passed away, sealing the documentary's fate as an important historical work in the tradition of Alan Lomax's The Land Where Blues Began. A portion of the proceeds will be donated to the Music Maker Relief Foundation, a nonprofit organization dedicated to helping the true pioneers and forgotten heroes of Southern musical traditions gain recognition and meet their day-to-day needs.