Blue Notes

Kenny Wayne Shepherd Takes a Ride In New Blues-Rock Supergroup

How the new guitar-centric blues-rock supergroup The Rides came together involves a genesis that's more football than foot pedals. But the core trio of singer/guitarists Stephen Stills and Kenny Wayne Shepherd and keyboardist Barry Goldberg couldn't be happier about the venture, whether it's a one-off project or one with more legs.

"This was an interesting opportunity for me to do something out of the norm. I've always wanted to put together a side project," Shepherd says from a stop on the band's current tour in support of debut CD Can't Get Enough (429 Records). "I wanted to be part of a band and have a new experience."

That experience started when Stills, coming off a nearly two-year world tour with day-job band Crosby, Stills and Nash, wanted to explore something bluesier for his next project; that or maybe he was just tired of playing "Our House" every night.

Wanting to recreate the vibe of the legendary 1968 ad-hoc record Super Session that found keyboardist Al Kooper collaborating with guitarists Stills on one side and Michael Bloomfield on the other, Stills reached out to Goldberg (ex-Electric Flag) who had played on a couple of that effort's tracks about a similar project.

It was Goldberg who suggested Shepherd as the other axe hero, and it turns out that Stills has already met and jammed with the younger player at parties hosted by Indianapolis Colts owner Jim Irsay.

Adding CSN bassist Kevin McCormick and Shepherd's drummer Chris Layton (ex-Double Trouble, Arc Angels) to the mix, the quintet cut Can't Get Enough in just seven days.

"Stephen and Barry had started writing some songs before I joined up. Not everybody is compatible when it comes to writing, but we were and thankfully the process was pretty effortless," Shepherd offers. "And nobody wanted to overthink anything or put the songs under the microscope."

As a result, the tracks were laid down with minimal takes, overdubbing, and fixing.

The record features a mixture of originals by the trio ("Don't Want Lies," "Only Tear Drops Fall," the title track), and blues covers (Muddy Waters' "Honey Bee," Elmore James' "Talk to Me Baby"). But more interesting (and surprising) are the Rides interpretations of rock numbers like Iggy and the Stooges' "Search and Destroy," Neil Young's "Rockin' in the Free World," and Stills' own "Word Game."

Shepherd explains how he became "the world's forgotten boy" for a while with Iggy Pop's proto-punk classic.

"The producer, Jerry Harrison [ex-Talking Heads] suggested it. He has a knack for coming up with interesting covers songs that on the surface make people scratch their heads," Shepherd notes, adding that both Stills and Goldberg were "resistant at first" to tackle the tune.

"But we humored Jerry and figured the worst thing that could happen was that we lost an hour and a half of studio time," he continues. "But it was cool how it turned out."

Interview continues on the next page.

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Bob Ruggiero has been writing about music, books, visual arts and entertainment for the Houston Press since 1997, with an emphasis on classic rock. He used to have an incredible and luxurious mullet in college as well. He is the author of the band biography Slippin’ Out of Darkness: The Story of WAR.
Contact: Bob Ruggiero