KENNY WAYNE SHEPHERD BAND - Outlaw Country Stage, Ramblin' Man Fair - Mote Park, Maidstone.

KENNY WAYNE SHEPHERD BAND - Outlaw Country Stage, Ramblin' Man Fair - Mote Park, Maidstone.


Kenny Wayne Shepherd at Ramblin’ Man 2019.

Kenny Wayne Shepherd at Ramblin’ Man 2019.

By Andy Rawll.

Two years on from their mid-afternoon statement of in-tent performance in 2017, Kenny Wayne and band reached the hallowed summit of Ramblin' Man Fair to deliver an intense headline performance at the outdoor Outlaw Country Stage on Saturday, located at the top of the site that offers a panoramic view of the whole festival grounds.

With a stage-time squeezed between the traditional Southern Rock of the Allman-Betts Band and the metallic country of Black Stone Cherry, the Louisiana guitar gunslinger was perfectly positioned to lead his loyal band, that includes Chris Leighton of Double Trouble, through a set that showcased the best of his latest album of country-tinged blues rock 'The Traveler' and highlights from his twenty-five year career.

As ever, co-frontman Noah Hunt's rounded and expressive voice is musical honeydew to Kenny's cherry-sweet and higher-pitched vocal. However, together they interact and meld beautifully with a rich combined tone that is never less than perfectly pitched and telepathically harmonious. 'Woman Like You', the lead track on the new album, opens the show in style, with its compelling chorus and provides the Shepherd man with an early opportunity to delight his flock of faithful followers with ferocious fretboard fireworks.

The stadium Country-Rock of 'Long Time Running' continued the opening sequence of four songs from 'The Traveler' and was perfectly contrasted by the SRV-style scorched earth blues of 'I Want You'; Kenny's voice channelling the true grit and southern soul of one of his main musical influences.

There are a few references to KWS's ongoing role alongside Steven Stills in 'The Rides' throughout the set, with a fabulous stomping version of Buffalo Springfield's 'Mr Soul' with Hunt embodying the songs with his killer baritone.

KWS delivering his ferocious fretwork to his loyal fanbase at Ramblin’ Man Fair 2019.

KWS delivering his ferocious fretwork to his loyal fanbase at Ramblin’ Man Fair 2019.

Later in the set, Kenny and band return to the great trad R&B of Elmore James' 'Talk To Me Baby' that was a stand-out track on The Rides' 2013 debut album.

Of the other tracks drawn from his previous eight albums, the precious 'Diamonds and Gold' from 2017's 'Lay It Down' shone brightly, while the gritty Southern blues of 'Shame, Shame, Shame', from his 1995 debut 'Ledbetter Heights', still resonated regretfully.

It was also great to hear the original version of breakthrough 1998 hit 'Blue On Black' again, given that the dark and heavy 2019 cover by pugnacious metal band 'Five Finger Death Punch' has dominated recent airplay of this great song. No-one else sings it quite like Noah and the understated arrangement and gutsy guitar is the right match for the thought-provoking lyrics.

As if anyone would have doubted, this was a worthy headline set that ebbed and flowed, excited and delighted. It was as hot as the blazing sun that graced another triumphant day of ramblin', rockin' and rollin'.

As is customary for him, Kenny revisited his other avowed musical hero to close the show, with not only a rainbow-hued 'Purple Haze', but also an extended version of 'Voodoo Chile'. This symphony of psychedelic blues melded the original jam of Muddy Waters' 'Rollin' Stone' that Hendrix had evolved into the more structured song segue that became 'Voodoo Child (slight return)’.

Despite the wide range of indigenous and ethnic food available at the festival, Kenny Waynes' ‘Chile’ was easily the hottest and tastiest feast for the senses of the whole weekend.

Andy Rawll