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more... GuitaristsBluesClassic RockAugust 2011Kenny Wayne Shepherd

Interview: Kenny Wayne Shepherd - How He Goes

Interview: Kenny Wayne Shepherd - How He Goes

What was your approach to choosing the covers for the record?

I always like to do an artist that influenced me, somebody I respect, and choose their less obvious material. Over the course of my career I’ve been doing Hendrix’s “I Don’t Live Today,” which is not an obvious Hendrix cover. We did Peter Green’s “Oh Well,” which is a much less obvious song for Fleetwood Mac. And from Bob Dylan, we did “Everything Is Broken.” I like to go deeper into an artist’s catalogue and pick songs that I think we can do a great version of, but still stay true to the original.

Our producer Jerry Harrison came up with the idea of us covering Bessie Smith’s “Blackwater Blues.” It was kind of appropriate with all the struggles my home state of Louisiana has gone through since Katrina. It’s also good to have a nice up-tempo shuffle on there. Jerry also came up with Albert King’s “Oh, Pretty Woman,” which isn’t the first Albert King song that would come to mind for most people.

There’s some great wah work on that track.

Thanks. It’s a rockin’ track and it’s the first time I ever used a horn section on a record.

What about the Beatles cover?

“Yer Blues” was my idea. Three or four years ago I was driving down the Pacific Coast Highway near Malibu. Out here we have a station that does a Breakfast With The Beatles program every Sunday where they play nonstop Beatles music “Yer Blues” came on and I was like, “Oh man!” I’d heard that song before but it hit me differently, and I could totally hear myself doing it!

I held on to that for three or four years. When we were making the record, we cut it live and then overdubbed the guitar. I was actually talking to Ringo recently—because I played on his upcoming record—and I told him we did that song and cut it live in the studio. He told me it’s the same way they cut it, which I thought that was really cool.

Give me a basic rundown of the gear you’re using.

Because what I had going was working really well, I kept it rather simple for this album. Most of my stuff is in storage in Louisiana and since we were in California, I mostly just used what I had out here. For amps, the majority of what you hear on this record is one of my original ’64 Fender blackface Vibroverbs with the original 15" speaker. I just got a brand new Fender ’57 Tweed Twin from the custom shop and I was beside myself with how incredible it sounded right out of the box.

I also used my Fender ’65 Reissue Twin, which is from one of the original runs of the ’65 Reissue Twins, when they were doing just 250 of them. I’m also using a Dumble Overdrive Special along with another amp Dumble built for me that he calls a Tweedle Dee Deluxe. If you saw it you would think it’s a Tweed Deluxe, but it’s actually his own circuit. It sounds absolutely phenomenal.

Is this a one of a kind amp?

Yes. The clean tones are just amazing and sparkling, and the clarity is unbelievable. When you crank it up, the overtones are just incredible—you don’t even need a pedal for that amp. You’re hearing the Overdrive Special on some of the solos, the Deluxe that he built for me on a lot of the rhythm parts, and the ’57 Tweed Twin is on a ton of stuff.

The first time I saw you on the G3 Tour years ago, you were crankin’ the Marshalls. What happened?

I’ve been using Fender amps almost exclusively for some time now. When I was using the Marshalls, I was blowing them up pretty much on a regular basis. There was also a little too much high end coming from them, and even when I had the treble turned all the way down, it was still tough to get rid of the high end. I liked them at first, but I ended up struggling with them.

Over the course of my career, the staple of my live show has been the blackface Twin Reissue. I usually run two or three of those depending on the size of the venue. Over the last couple of years, I’ve been trying to figure out how to get a great tone at a lower volume. The Twins would just be screaming sometimes, and they could overpower the venue. When Fender reissued the blackface Vibroverb with the 1x15, I started using a couple of those to help dial the wattage down. The Overdrive Special that I use in the studio is likely to become a primary part of my live touring rig, depending on how things shape up for this tour.
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