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Kenny Wayne Shepherd – “Trouble Is…25” [Documentary Review]

Kenny Wayne Shepherd’s ‘Trouble Is…25’ documentary (Provogue Records/Mascot Label Group ) does a fine job of playing well to its niche.

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When the Kenny Wayne Shepherd Band released their first album, Trouble Is, in 1996, there was little idea that it would go on to hit platinum and allow its namesake guitarist and musician to become the forerunner of a new generation of blues rock figures. To mark the occasion of that album’s 25th anniversary, the band reassembled to play a packed house at The Strand Theatre in Shepherd’s hometown, Shreveport, Louisiana. The documentary is a mix of talking heads and archival footage. All of this is interspersed with excerpts of their live anniversary show, serving as a demonstration of the power and vitality the band still commands.

Providing insights into some of the song lyrics and Shepherd’s intended purpose for them is one of the key highlights of the documentary. At one point, the film focuses on his songwriting. By way of explaining why he insisted on having other musicians get involved in the process, Kenny states he wanted to add them because “if somebody thought it was horrible, it wouldn’t be all [his] fault.” What appears on the surface to be a remark made out of modesty ends up illuminating how collaboration helped Kenny grow as a musician, moving on to cover his collaboration with artists Mark Selby and Andrew Tate.

By the time Tia Sillers and how her influence on the album is introduced, there’s a compelling story shared about how the chain of musicians working behind the scenes in that blues community networked and ended up contributing to the debut’s various singles. In addition, getting Jerry Harrison (of Talking Heads fame) to reveal his thoughts on producing Trouble Is… is a level of insight that’s as unexpected as it is welcome.

One other thing that the documentary is helpful for is showing the unusual dynamic between Kenny and his father, Ken Shepherd, who went from being a radio DJ to become his son’s manager. It’s fascinating to see the way that they reminisce on the way that their careers and relationship interacted, and for others to remark on it serves as a reminder that it is as unusual as it appears to have been beneficial for the team.

Documentaries have the difficult task of making the subject matter interesting to audiences, whether or not they’re already familiar with the material. One thing Trouble Is…25 fails to do is put Shepherd’s career in the context of what the state of blues was like when his debut album dropped. There are loads of artists breaking ground in the blues rock scene today (we reviewed Andrew Adkins’ Rattlesnake Motions just a few months ago, by way of example), and having that general survey of the landscape at then and now would have been a welcome bonus to the film. With that said, the documentary does a fine job of playing well to its niche. So while the genre of blues and its vanguard of artists aren’t explored, it’s not necessarily vital: the film is just as interesting for audiences who may be unfamiliar with either Kenny Wayne Shepherd or blues rock in general.

Kenny Wayne Shepherd, photo by Mark Seliger

The Trouble Is… 25 Documentary and Concert Film DVDs are both available on DVD and Blu-Ray, and the audio album of the performance is available wherever you happen to stream your music. Find all purchase/stream options here.

Director: Taylor Ballantyne
Distributor: Provogue Records/Mascot Label Group
Release Date: December 2, 2022
Run Time: 73 minutes

Director of Communications @ V13. Lance Marwood is a music and entertainment writer who has been featured in both digital and print publications, including a foreword for the book "Toronto DIY: (2008-2013)" and The Continuist. He has been creating and coordinating content for V13 since 2015 (back when it was PureGrainAudio); before that he wrote and hosted a radio and online series called The Hard Stuff , featuring interviews with bands and insight into the Toronto DIY and wider hardcore punk scene. He has performed in bands and played shows alongside acts such as Expectorated Sequence, S.H.I.T., and Full of Hell.

Album Review

Two Faces West – ‘Postcards From Lonely Places’ [Album Review]

Two Faces West knows how to play blues rock. On ‘Postcards From Lonely Places’ they’re at their best when pumping out nasty, swaggering, trash-laced melodies.

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Two Faces West ‘Postcards From Lonely Places’ album artwork
Two Faces West ‘Postcards From Lonely Places’ album artwork

Denver, Colorado-based blues rock trio Two Faces West released their debut album, Postcards From Lonely Places, in the middle of last year. The album’s title discloses a singular theme: stories of American lives and the daily grind of life experienced, in all its glories and defeats, tragedies and triumphs.

Produced by Glenn Sawyer and Rich Veltrop, the album was initially intended to be an EP but grew into an album after a change in personnel.

The band explains, “If Postcards From Lonely Places seems like a stylistic mess, it probably is just that. This album was originally conceived as a 5 song EP and slated for release in early 2020. Vince Carmellini joined Two Faces West in 2019, and the new line-up decided to write five additional songs. The result is a group of songs with essentially a very dynamic group of songwriters and players, with different flavors and moods.”

Made up of Kurt Ashmore (vocals, guitar, sax, banjo), Mick Knudsen (drums, vocals), and Vince Carmellini (bass, organ, vocals), Two Faces West’s sound merges rootsy blues rock, rock, and hints of funk into what the band calls ‘crankin’ rock and blues.’

Of the 12 tracks on the album, entry points include opener “Ain’t Got a Clue,” riding a funked-out rhythm topped by skiffing guitars and dramatic flourishes of braying brass. Because of its familiar, irresistible funk flavors, the song grabs listeners’ attention.

Rolling out on a cool drum shuffle, “Vegas at 3AM” features dark, dirty guitars giving off grimy tones as Ashmore vocals imbue the lyrics with cautionary timbres. The mood of the song conjures up suggestions of ZZ Top, especially in the solo section, highlighted by sleazy, virtuoso licks.

Hot Tamale Baby” ramps things up with its scorching textures of galloping blues-rock, radiating retro-infused energy. A personal favorite because of its muddy, growling guitars and Elvis-like vocals, reminiscent of “Jailhouse Rock,” “Brand New Suit” struts the pure essence of down-and-dirty blues rock.

Another grinder, “Moonshiners,” travels on a deep, gritty bassline and Mitch Mitchell-like percussion as Ashmore’s raspy vocals give the lyrics the dangerous savors of whiskey bootleggers. Whereas “Dirty Ol’ Man” snarls and grimaces on murky, sliding guitars that ride an austere, pummeling rhythm.

Freedom,” a live track recorded at The Bluebird in January 2020, recalls the grand live performances of Humble Pie, oozing low-slung, smoldering, bluesy surfaces and a jam band atmosphere.

Two Faces West knows how to play blues rock: they’re at their best when pumping out nasty, swaggering, trash-laced melodies.

Two Faces West, photo by Perks Photography

Two Faces West, photo by Perks Photography

Postcards From Lonely Places Track Listing:

1. Ain’t Got a Clue
2. Vegas at 3AM
3. Hot Tamale Baby
4. The Ballad of Jerry Davis
5. Rocks Like a Country Song
6. Mountain Sunrise
7. Brand New Suit
8. Moonshiners
9. Late Night
10. Spinnin’ Circles
11. Dirty Ol’ Man
12. Freedom (Live at the Bluebird 01/02/2020)

Run Time: 56:33
Release Date: June 16, 2023
Record Label: Independent

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Blues

Shannon Smith Premieres Music Video for “Valentine’s Day” Tale of Regret and Undying Love

Shannon Smith explores truth, regret, and undying affection in new single “Valentine’s Day”. Check out the video here…

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Shannon Smith Press Photo
Shannon Smith, press photo

Shannon Smith’s new single “Valentine’s Day” is not just a song; it’s a journey through the perilous yet ultimately redeeming path of love. Against the backdrop of a houseboat in Augusta, Smith penned a confessional ode to his partner, Helen Townsend, weaving a tapestry of regret, truth, and undying affection.

Now, in time for Valentine’s Day itself, Smith is premiering the music video.

Musically, the single, blends Americana spirit with gospel-tinged harmonies courtesy of the McCrary Sisters, whose accolades include backing for the Elvis movie soundtrack and Grammy nods, while the narrative is a lover’s plea for forgiveness, all delivered with Smith’s raw delivery. The end result is intensely cathartic, authentically heartfelt and deeply personal.

Speaking about the single, Smith told us:

“Working on “Valentine’s Day” and its music video was something really special to me. It’s not just a song; it’s a piece of my life, a story about the ups and downs of love that I think we’ve all felt at some point. Recording this track with the incredible McCrary Sisters in Nashville was an experience I’ll never forget – it took everything to a whole new level. I’m super excited to share this on V13. It’s a little nerve-wracking but also amazing to open up like this and I really hope it hits home for you and reminds you that it’s ok to be open and that, sometimes, loves biggest test is also its biggest reward.”

What sets “Valentine’s Day” apart is its authenticity. In an era where music often feels manufactured, Smith delivers a piece that is painstakingly crafted and emotionally charged. It’s a ballad for those who have faced the darkness in love and dared to light a candle rather than curse the night.

To purchase the single, head over here.

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Blues

Joe Bonamassa Announces His New “Blues Deluxe Tour”

Blues guitar legend Joe Bonamassa has announced details of his upcoming “Blues Deluxe Tour” U.S. summer tour.

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Joe Bonamassa live at Royal Albert Hall, photo by Christie Goodwin
Joe Bonamassa live at Royal Albert Hall, photo by Christie Goodwin

As he readies himself for his upcoming U.S. spring tour, kicking off in Louisville, KY, next week, the three-time GRAMMY-nominated guitarist and unparalleled chart-topper Joe Bonamassa is excited to announce the “Blues Deluxe Tour” this summer. Beginning on July 17th in Selbyville, DE, and wrapping up with a memorable two-night stand on August 30th and 31st in Hampton Beach, NH, the 21-city tour promises to be a defining moment for live blues-rock, showcasing the music that defined Bonamassa’s career.

The “Blues Deluxe Tour” pays homage to Joe Bonamassa’s critically acclaimed albums, including his best-selling Blues Deluxe from 2003 and its current chart-topping successor, Blues Deluxe Vol. 2. The setlist is poised to be an electrifying journey through Bonamassa’s repertoire, featuring a mix of beloved fan favourites and deep tracks making their live debut, all performed alongside a band of world-class musicians. Tickets go on sale Friday, February 16th at 10 am local time.

This announcement comes on the heels of a series of significant milestones for Joe Bonamassa, including his recent Blues Music Award nominations and the landmark announcement of the tenth voyage of the Keeping the Blues Alive at Sea X. The celebrated blues-rock cruise, known for its stellar lineup and vibrant musical community, is set to sail from March 21st to 26th, 2025, from Miami, FL to Harvest Caye, Belize, and Costa Maya, Mexico, aboard the luxurious Norwegian Gem.

U.S. Spring Tour Dates:

02/19 – Louisville, KY – The Louisville Palace
02/21 – Youngstown, OH – Covelli Centre
02/23 – Red Bank, NJ – Count Basie Center For The Arts
02/24 – Oxon Hill, MD – The Theater at MGM National Harbor
02/25 – Durham, NC – DPAC
02/27 – Columbia, SC – Township Auditorium
02/29 – Virginia Beach, VA – The Sandler Center
03/01 – Roanoke, VA – Berglund Center
03/02 – Cincinnati, OH – Taft Theatre
03/04 – Richmond, VA – Altria Theater
03/05 – Knoxville, TN – Knoxville Civic Auditorium
03/07 – Pensacola, FL – Saenger Theatre
03/08 – Biloxi, MS – Beau Rivage
03/09 – Biloxi, MS – Beau Rivage
03/11 – Huntsville, AL – VBC Mark C. Smith Concert Hall
03/12 – Greenville, SC – Peace Center
03/14 – Macon, GA – Macon City Auditorium
03/15 – Orlando, FL – Dr. Phillips Center
03/16 – Clearwater, FL – The Sound
03/18 – 03/22 – Keeping the Blues Alive at Sea IX – Miami, FL to Cozumel, Mexico

European Spring Tour Dates:

04/04 – London, UK – The Royal Albert Hall
04/05 – London, UK – The Royal Albert Hall
04/07 – Oostende, BE – Kursaal Oostende
04/09 – Koln, DE – Lanxess Arena
04/11 – Paris, FR – Palais Des Sport
04/12 – Amsterdam, NL – AFAS Live
04/13 – Muenster, DE – Messe Und Congress Center
04/15 – Leipzig, DE – Arena Leipzig
04/17 – Katowice, PL – Spodek
04/18 – Berlin, DE – Mercedes Benz Arena
04/19 – Vienna, AT – Stadthalle

U.S. Summer Tour Dates:

07/17 – Selbyville, DE – Freeman Arts Pavilion*
07/18 – Patchogue, NY – Great South Bay Music Festival^
07/19 – Bangor, ME – Maine Savings Amphitheater
08/02 – Albuquerque, NM – Sandia Resort & Casino
08/04 – Morrison, CO – Red Rocks Amphitheatre
08/06 – Omaha, NE – Orpheum Theater
08/08 – Topeka, KS – Topeka Performing Arts Center
08/09 – Durant, OK – Choctaw Grand Theater
08/10 – Jackson, MS – Thalia Mara Hall
08/12 – Birmingham, AL – BJCC Concert Hall
08/14 – Charleston, SC – North Charleston Performing Arts Center
08/16 – Evansville, IN – Old National Events Plaza
08/17 – Indianapolis, IN – Murat Theatre at Old National Centre
08/18 – Nashville, TN – Ryman Auditorium
08/20 – Kettering, OH – Fraze Pavilion
08/21 – Hershey, PA – Hershey Theatre
08/23 – Port Chester, NY – The Capitol Theatre
08/24 – Port Chester, NY – The Capitol Theatre
08/25 – Rochester, NY – West Herr Auditorium Theatre
08/27 – Albany, NY – Palace Theatre
08/29 – Hyannis, MA – Cape Cod Melody Tent
08/30 – Hampton Beach, NH – Hampton Beach Casino Ballroom
08/31 – Hampton Beach, NH – Hampton Beach Casino Ballroom

*On-sale Friday, February 23rd at 12 pm EST
^On-sale now

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