Stellar lineup to grace Oregon State Fair

Kenny Wayne Shepherd, Soulive, Ozomatli to rock Salem on Sept. 1
by: contributed photo Kenny Wayne Shepherd has become one of the leading blues-rock guitarists of the past decade, and has collaborated with many of the artists that popularized blues in the 1950s and ’60s, including B.B. King. He’ll share the Oregon State Fair stage on Sept. 1 with Soulive (below left), the critically acclaimed trio that’s recorded with Dave Matthews and Chaka Khan, and Ozomatli (below right), a Grammy-winning group from Los Angeles that combines Latin music with a variety of other styles

Blues-rock guitarist Kenny Wayne Shepherd is riding in a car to a radio interview in Allentown, Pa., and takes a few moments to chat by phone about his new record 'How I Go.'

'The fan response has been great,' he says. 'I'm doing a fair amount of the album in the new set.'

Tunes like 'Never Lookin' Back,' 'Come On Over' and a cover of the John Lennon classic blues parody 'Yer Blues' all seem to go down well with crowds on the latest tour, he says.

Shepherd will make his way to Salem this Thursday, Sept. 1, to perform a show at the state fair with Soulive, the critically acclaimed jazz-hip-hop-rock-soul trio, and Ozomatli, Latin-flavored world beat hipsters from Los Angeles.

Although he's only 32, Shepherd is actually a longtime veteran of the music circuit and has been bending his strings in front of audiences since he was 16. Shepherd has sold millions of albums worldwide, received four Grammy nominations, two Billboard Music awards, two Orville H. Gibson awards, the Blues Foundation's 'Keeping The Blues Alive award' and a Blues Music award, among many other accolades. He has had four No. 1 blues albums and a string of No. 1 mainstream rock singles.

Little Boy Blue

Growing up in Shreveport, La., Shepherd was bathed in the blues from an early age, attending a Muddy Waters and John Lee Hooker show with his dad, a promoter and radio personality, when he was 7. But it was hearing and then meeting the late blues rock guitarist Stevie Ray Vaughan that same year that set him on his path.

'Seeing him really made me want to get serious about playing the guitar,' he says.

When he broke out in the late 1990s with such hits as 'Blue on Black,' Shepherd was hailed as the latest young hotshot guitarist in a long line of ax-slingers from America and England inspired by African-American blues since the 1950s. He's since developed into a serious songwriter as well as a bit of a blues historian - he released '10 Days Out,' a CD-DVD collaborative effort in 2007 with such blues masters as Henry Gray, pianist, and Hubert Sumlin, guitarist of the Howlin' Wolf Band. The DVD contains interviews the young man did with such aging blues cats as B.B. King, Honeyboy Edwards and Etta Baker.

'The only responsibility that I think of is to try to keep the blues alive, help it to evolve and take in a different direction,' he says, noting it's important to get beyond standard 12-bar blues arrangements to keep audiences interested.

Fortunately, he says, he has a 'loyal fan base' that has grown up with him and that are always eager to hear his new songs.

'Just playing live for hours every night perfects your craft,' he says.

'I try to pick and choose what I play a little more selectively now, and not just blaze all the time.'


In addition to Shepherd, Soulive, arguably the best trio of its kind in America for the past decade, will also jam at the fair.

Brothers Neal and Alan Evans and guitarist Eric Krasno formed the group in the late 1990s out of mutual love for the great soul-jazz organ trios of the '60s and '70s.

Soulive has since recorded with Chaka Khan, Dave Matthews, Talib Kweli and John Scofield. They've opened for The Rolling Stones on one tour and jammed with Stevie Wonder, Derek Trucks, Maceo Parker, Susan Tedeschi, Joshua Redman, The Roots, Ivan Neville and others.

Essentially the Booker T and the MGs of our era, Soulive is one the few must-see acts on the planet, and that's no hype.


This horn-flavored L.A. band combines a variety of Latin music styles with hip hop, rock, rhythm 'n' blues, reggae and Indian raga. The band's mantra is 'We'll take you around the world by taking you around L.A,' and alludes to what it's like to drive around the city with your windows down, catching the various types of music coming out of everyone's radios and stereos.

In 2005, the socially conscious group's CD 'Street Signs' won a Grammy for 'Best Latin Rock/Alternative Album.'

If you go

WHAT: SessionFest

WHO: Kenny Wayne Shepherd, Soulive, Ozomatli

WHEN: 7:30 p.m. Thursday, Sept. 1

WHERE: Oregon State Fair, 2330 17th St. N.E., Salem

COST: $20, $30, $40