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August 2010
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October 2010

Kenny Wayne Shepherd: Live! In Chicago


Kenny Wayne Shepherd has a new  "Live! In Chicago CD from Chicago's House of Blues.  This was recorded as part of the "10 Days Out" tour and features blues legends Hubert Sumlin, Willie "Big Eyes" Smith along side Shepherd's band.  The CD will be out September 28 and is available for pre-order on Amazon.

I've been listening to a pre-release version and it's a great live CD.  There's a wide range  of styles on the album.  There's old style Louisiana blues, slow blues, and more. Noah Hunt's vocals are smooth and powerful as ever and Shepherd just rips it up in his solos with the passion and precision he's known for.  

Shepherd and his band are on the road touring the US and Canada with with shows in Ohio, Washington, Chicago, New York, Boston, Montreal, Quebec,Toronto and beyond.

Last Chance: ~50 Vintage 78 RPM records

My wife uncovered a stash of vintage records, mostly 78 RPM oldies on Columbia, Capitol, Decca, RCA, Mercury, King, Coral, Dana, Blue Jay etc, with a couple of long play 33 1/3s that her parents had many years ago.  I hate like heck to see these go into the dustbin, so if there's any record collectors out there who wan these, make me an offer via craigslist, email or twitter in the next couple of days.  These records are old, fragile and generally in good but not fine shape.  They are heavy, fragile and without sleeves, so local pickup only in the greater San Francisco Bay area, e.g. Santa Cruz, San Jose, Santa Clara, San Mateo, possibly East Bay. 

Among the titles:

  • Bill Haley - Razzle Dazzle / Two Hound Dogs
  • Les Paul - Jazz Me Blues / Just One More Chance, Chicken Reel / Mockin' Bird Hill
  • Andrews Sisters - I See, I See
  • Nelson Riddle - Robin Hood
  • Continental 5 - Marianna
  • Eddie Arnold - Take Me in Your Arms
  • Boyd Bennett - Seventeen
  • Joe Fingers Carr - Ivory Rag
  • Frankie Castro - Steamboat
  • Frankie Laine - Jealousy, Waiting at the End of the Road
  • Mills Brothers - Nevertheless
  • Patti Page - Every day
  • Perry Como - Hoop Dee Doo
  • Bing Crosby - Have I Told You Lately That I Love You?
  • Doris Day - Canadian Capers
  • Vic Damone - Son of a Sailor
  • Les Brown - Sentimental Journey
  • A dozen Polka 78s including Payday Polka, Hey Hey Polka, Metro Polka, Holka Polka, Party Polka, Polka Town, and assorted Frankie Yankovic and his Yanks records.  (Yes, they're related.)  

Ok, so my wife's parents weren't rockers.  But still, this grab bag of records might be meaningful to a collector.  If there are no good offers, we'll frame a couple and then melt the rest.  But I hate to think of doing that.  I will also post these on Craigslist, so if you want them, let me know. 

Contact me via email with your offer (link in the upper right of this post) or twitter @ZUrlocker or a comment below.  Happy to swap for vintage Infocom games, Dennis Wheatley crime dossiers (original or early 80s reprints) or whatever cash you think this is worth.

First Live Gig

For the past few months, I've been part of a Blues Essentials workshop at Red House Studio in Walnut Creek.  We get together every Monday evening and work on a new song. Our workshop includes a range of guitar players, bass players and drummers of various skill levels.  This past Saturday morning we played our first ever live gig at a local wine & arts festival in Lafayette.  Although the set was quite short, a group of us rehearsed quite a bit over the last few weeks and it paid off.  

I'm an occasional runner and I can't help but compare this first gig to running your first serious 10k race. You gotta respect any such event with your taining; you don't just show up and wing it.  And like a race, there's a million things that could go wrong.  Will anyone show up?  Can I find parking?  What if it rains?  Will our vocalist make it on time?  Where are the bathrooms?  Just like a race.

Luckily, everyone did make it.  And I think we sounded pretty darned good.   There's some video below that I've posted on YouTube.  The camera is a bit shaky in parts, but it captures the sound quite well.  I've also included the song "Love Me Like a Man" by some other folks in our workshop and a nice solo by Tom on "Tore Down." 

Astute viewers will notice a minor slip up in the second song, JJ Cale's "Bring Down the Curtain."  James and I are soloing at the same time and stepping all over eachother.  Had I been paying more attention I would have just reverted back to rhythm and given James the space he deserved.  But there were 100 things I was trying to keep straight in my head (What key are we in?  Can anyone hear my amp?  Where's the 17th fret?  Don't play too many notes!  Relax. Is this in B?) and by the time I figured out what was going on we were back to the vocals.  No doubt it sounds like we were giving the song an unwarranted prog-rock treatment.

Even with this rough spot, I think we did as good a job as we could have done. James and Val were awesome both on their vocals and on guitar.  Holly and Lynn kept the rhythm locked in for us.  I was happy that I was in the right key at all times and didn't totally lose the plot. 

They say that the difference between a jogger and a runner is a race entry form.  Perhaps we did the same thing today moving from wannabe's to musicians by playing what was the first live gig for most of us.  Playing in front of an audience is different from a basement jam or rehearsal.  You're out there without a safety net, exposing yourself to whatever might go wrong.  And that's part of why you rehearse, so that even if things go wrong, or rather, when things go wrong, you can still make it work.  Just like running a race.  I have no doubt there are thousands (millions?) of better players out there in the bay area alone, but we did something together on stage and put it in front of the audience and I could not be more proud of our performance.  

If you're an amateur musician or wannabe in the SF East Bay, I strongly recommend you check out Red House Studio.  They have group and private instruction, rehearsal space, recording facilities, jams, shows, you name it and cover all range of music, skills and age groups.  Special thanks to everyone who helped get us on stage, especially Jeff Magidson the musical director and our blues instructor.  Jeff, we couldn't have done it without you. 

ZT Lunchbox : The Loudest Little Amp

I was starting to look around at various low-wattage tube amps from Bugera, VHT and the Fender Champ when I stumbled across the ZT Lunchbox amp.  While it's solid-state rather than a tube amp, it fit the bill for me combining a great tone in a small package.  And despite it's lunchbox size, this thing puts out an incredible 200 watts (135 RMS).  I've jammed with it and it can keep up against a drummer, bass player and a guitarist with a 100 watt Marshall amp. In fact, it's got room to spare.

Just how loud is a ZT Lunchbox?  Well lets just say it's loud enough for ZZ Top so it'll probably be good enough for you.  You can see two ZT Lunchboxes in the photo below, just below the drum riser.

Despite it's small size (6.5" speaker) and diminutive weight (under ten pounds) this thing cranks!  And the tone is excellent.  While the controls are a bit different than what you're used to (ambiance instead of proper reverb, gain works a bit different) the tone you get is rich and tube-like.  And if you want a bit more crunch, just put a Boss Overdrive or Tube Screamer in front and you'll have an easy to transport setup that you can use in the home, studio or on stage.

You can find these at some shops or online at Amazon and elsewhere for around $260 for the Lunchbox or $460 for the larger Club model which has a larger 12" speaker and comes in around 22 pounds.  

Here's a short video I shot that demonstrates the ZT Lunchbox.  However, the sound conditions were not ideal.  The true test of the Lunchbox is when you see it holding its own in a live gig situation.

Kenny Wayne Shepherd: 10 Days Out

Kenny Wayne Shepherd: 10 Days Out is a remarkable CD/DVD bundle that documents Shepherd's 10 day journey in 2004 back to the roots of American blues music in the south.  Kenny Wayne Shepherd and Chris Layton & Tommy Shannon of Double Toruble play alongside blues greats like Clarence "Gatemouth" Brown, Jerry "Boogie" McCain, David "Honeboy" Edwards, Willie "Big eyes" Smith, Pinetop Perkins, Etta Baker, BB King, Hubert Sumlin as well as the Howlin' Wolf and Muddy Waters bands.  These may well be the last recordings of some of these blues artists; several have passed away since 2004. 

While the CD is great, consider it just a warmup for the DVD. The ninety minute documentary film takes you through dive bars, churches, backyards, graveyards, kitchens and living rooms to hear the blues up front and center. You get a feel for the lives of the musicians who grew up and lived and played the blues their entire lives, many of them 80 or more years old.  These are musicians with talent that even give a guy like Shepherd pause to wonder whether he will measure up.  The material covers a range of blues styles: acoustic, up-tempo, Piedmont and down and dirty electric blues.

You can buy the MP3 songs alone as part of the Legends EP series on Amazon, but to get the full impact, you're better off buying the CD/DVD package.

Here's a clip from the "10 Days Out" DVD via YouTube.

Also, stay tuned for a new CD: "Live! In Chicago" from a performance on the same tour at Chicago's House of Blues featuring Hubert Sumlin, Willie "Big Eyes" Smith and other blues legends.  The CD will be out September 28 and is available for pre-order on Amazon.

Shepherd continues to tour extensively in the US and Canada with gigs coming up in Royal Oak, Michigan, Ohio, Washington, Chicago, New York, Boston, Montreal, Toronto --heck he's even playing in Fredricton, New Brunswick.  It's a great live show.