If you’re a fan of American roots with a modern twist, Kenny Wayne Shepherd’s latest studio album, ‘Dirt On My Diamonds Volume 1,’ (out today – November 17th) is a must-listen. The five-time-Grammy-nominated guitarist releases his new record via Provogue Records/Mascot Label Group, and it’s a testament to Shepherd’s evolution in the world of music.
The album’s roots can be traced back to the legendary FAME Studios in Muscle Shoals, Alabama, where Shepherd, along with an elite team of songwriters, crafted a collection of songs that delve into stories of loss, redemption, and memorable melodies. According to Shepherd, “Every record I make is a moment in time. And this is a really special moment.” The album’s creative process started with a session at FAME Studios, where Shepherd and his co-writers discarded the rulebook, writing non-stop for three days. The history of Muscle Shoals added a unique touch to the experience, as Shepherd mentions, “You feel it in the air at a studio like FAME.
Recording sessions continued at a friend’s studio in Burbank for overdubs, focusing on capturing the essence of the band playing live together. Shepherd emphasizes the importance of minimal polish, stating, “For me, it’s all about capturing the essence of the band playing live together, because that’s what we do best.”
The lead single, ‘Sweet & Low,’ showcases a fusion of modern urban influences and traditional blues undertones, highlighting Shepherd’s musical expertise. The track provides a fresh perspective on the old-fashioned courting ritual, with an irresistibly captivating groove. Shepherd notes, “People I’ve played the album for, they consistently have the biggest reaction to that one.”
Don’t expect ‘Dirt On My Diamonds Volume 1’ to follow the typical twelve-bar blues formula. Shepherd, a multi-platinum bandleader, surprises listeners with a mix of curveballs, from the urban edge of “Sweet & Low” to the powerful production from Shepherd and his longtime collaborator, Marshall Altman. Shepherd emphasizes their productive relationship, stating, “We put our strengths together and push each other.”
The album’s guiding philosophy, as suggested by the title, values grit and emotional honesty over guitar pyrotechnics. Shepherd comments, “Life has imperfections, and I actually prefer it that way. The imperfections are what make it interesting. Born in North Louisiana in 1977, Shepherd’s journey into the blues and rock ‘n’ roll started early, influenced by his father, a respected Louisiana radio personality and promoter. Since his debut album in 1995, Shepherd has been a relentless force in the music industry, defying expectations and achieving milestones, including the breakthrough album ‘Trouble Is…’ in 1997.
The album’s direction can be understood by revisiting Shepherd’s 2017 album, ‘Lay It On Down,’ marking the beginning of his enduring partnership with producer Marshall Altman. Shepherd describes the evolution across albums as feeling like chapters in a book, emphasising the freshness, modernity, and current sound of ‘Dirt On My Diamonds Volume 1.’
With strong material and a catalog of songs, Shepherd ensures that ‘Dirt On My Diamonds Volume 1’ uplifts listeners above their circumstances. Despite life’s challenges, Shepherd aimed to create music that makes people feel good, avoiding a dark or dreary tone. Adding a playful touch to the album, Shepherd covers Elton John’s ‘Saturday Night’s Alright For Fighting.’ The choice aligns well with Shepherd’s goal of bringing his band’s unique style to classic songs, creating a vibrant and engaging experience.
‘Dirt On My Diamonds Volume 1’ is a testament to Kenny Wayne Shepherd’s musical evolution, offering a fresh, modern sound while staying true to the roots of American music. From the soulful ‘Sweet & Low’ to the energetic cover of Elton John’s hit, the album promises a journey through Shepherd’s unique musical landscape.