Kenny Wayne Shepherd, Vanessa Collier, Kirk Fletcher

Our focus on blues music this time out features new releases from Kenny Wayne Shepherd, Vanessa Collier and Kirk Fletcher. And they have something special in common.

One of the best times blues fans can have is aboard one of Joe Bonamassa's Keeping the Blues Alive at Sea cruises. And when Joe sails August 17-22, 2023 from Athens, Greece to Santorini, Greece and Dubrovnik, Croatia on the Keeping the Blues Alive at Sea III: Mediterranean cruise he'll have all three of our spotlighted artists along with him! Until then, dig their new music. Cruise info is here.

Kenny Wayne Shepherd Band - Trouble Is...25

Trouble Is...25 cover

Shepherd broke through big with Trouble Is..., his second release which spawned the hit "Blue on Black" and greatly expanded his fan base beyond the blues community. In celebration of the album recently turning 25-years-old Shepherd has released this really nice keepsake which features a re-recorded version of the entire album. Fans needn't worry that arrangements of their favorites have been altered as Shepherd follows the original versions closely here; on "Blue on Black" for example fans will hear a slight difference in tone of lead singer Noah Hunt's vocals, a little bit more punch in the drums and seemingly more muscle in some of the guitar parts. Those who wish to make a note-by-note comparison will have their work cut out for them but they'll have tons of fun doing so. At any rate, the new version is spectacular. But this is a CD+DVD set and the reworked audio is not the only treat here; the DVD hold a concert, filmed in Shepherd's hometown of Shreveport, Louisiana, where the band performs Trouble is... in its entirety, although not in the same order as the album. Shepherd notes that it's the first time the band has ever performed the entire album live, and in a really nice touch he brings on his original touring band from 25-years ago to play the album's cover of Bob Dylan's "Everything is Broken." There's also footage of an auction for one of Shepherd's guitars before the film ends with a take on the non-album cut and co-write with Joe Bonamassa, "Shame, Shame, Shame." To top it all off the DVD also includes a newly-made documentary about the making of Trouble is...

Vanessa Collier - Live at Power Station

Vanessa Collier

Recorded before a live audience at New York City's vaunted Power Station Studios, this is the first live album for singer and sax player Collier. Working with a four piece backup band, Collier rips through cuts from her back catalog, most of which come from her Meeting My Shadow and Honey Up albums, like the shuffle "Whiskey and Women" from the former and the piano-driven, amusingly-titled "Sweatin' like a Pig, Singin' like an Angel" from the latter. Some of the others drawn from these albums are "Icarus," "When it Don't Come Easy" and "Two Parts Sugar, One Part Lime," all of which Collier wrote. Covers include a take on the well-traveled and Tina Turner-associated Ann Peebles song "I Can't Stand the Rain" and a funk-ified version of U2's "When Love Comes to Town." The emphasis on this album is more on Collier's soulful vocals (and guitar work from Laura Chavez) than it is on her sax playing but there's plenty of horn work throughout, notably on the James Brown-inspired groove "Tongue Tied" and on the lengthy Delta blues jam "Love Me like a Man."

Kirk Fletcher - Heartache by the Pound

Kirk Fletcher

Despite the title of this album it is not all "cryin' in your beer" music; in fact the album opens with "Shine a Light on Love," a buoyant shuffle where Fletcher sparkles on vocals and electric guitar and complete with horn augmentation and female backup vocals. The mood turns a bit on "Afraid to Die, Too Scared to Live" but still Fletcher is not too vocally distraught and he's back to joyful on the upbeat R&B of the title cut. The focus is appropriately on Fletcher's guitar on his cover of Albert King's loping "I've Made Nights by Myself" while the other cover on the album, Tarheel Slim's "Wild Cat Tamer" is raucous and rollicking like the titular wild cat. The album ends on a subdued note with "Hope for Us," a slow and reflective cut that shows that Fletcher is quite comfortable with an R&B tearjerker.

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