Self-taught blues guitar prodigy and platinum-selling artist Kenny Wayne Shepherd began playing music in earnest after seeing Stevie Ray Vaughan in 1984, at the age of seven. “It was a life-changing experience,” Shepherd says. “That was the day the fire was lit inside of me.”
Already steeped in his father’s massive music collection, Shepherd made it his mission at that young age to play and positively affect people through music the way that Vaughan affected him. Over the last 25 years, he’s done exactly that with signature songs like “Blue on Black” and acclaimed blues albums under his name and with the Kenny Wayne Shepherd Band.
Shepherd kicks his music into high gear with the Kenny Wayne Shepherd Band’s latest album, Lay It On Down, noted for a farther-reaching rock and Americana sound than most of his previous work.
“All the different genres you hear throughout the record is all stuff I grew up listening to,” Shepherd says. “[Blues are] my first love, but all of these genres are closely related. It’s natural for that stuff to find its way into my music.”
Currently on a massive tour in support of Lay It On Down, Kenny Wayne Shepherd Band performs in the North Bay next month as part of the Russian River Jazz & Blues Festival.
“The mindset is bringing something positive to the people through music,” Shepherd says. “Regardless of the political climate or whatever nonsense is going on in the world today, everybody has their own personal things that they’re dealing with, and music is universally something that helps people heal one way or another through difficult times.”
Kenny Wayne Shepherd Band, Sunday, Sept. 10, Russian River Jazz & Blues Festival, Johnson’s Beach, Guerneville; $55-$110 single day; $90-$190 weekend pass; russianriverfestivals.com.