Music News & Reviews

Guitarists follow Hendrix the legend

Kenny Wayne Shepherd says he’s ended every show he’s ever played, since age 15, with a rendition of “Voodoo Child.”

If that’s not kneeling at the pews in the church of Hendrix, what is?

“I was turned on to Hendrix basically from the get go,” says Shepherd, the 32-year-old Louisiana-bred blues guitarist who is a four-time Grammy nominee.

“I can remember listening to his music way back, before I can remember hearing music.”

It shouldn’t surprise that Shepherd has been the most dedicated member of the “Experience Hendrix” concert tour, which pays tribute to the guitar great tonight at Table Mountain Casino.

The list of names on the “Experience Hendrix” tour is drool-worthy for guitar aficionados. Joe Satriani, Jonny Lang, Aerosmith’s Brad Whitford and Eric Johnson join Shepherd on the top of the bill.

Doyle Bramhall II (who plays with Eric Clapton), Ernie Isley (of the Isley Brothers), rock band Living Colour and Chris Layton (of Double Trouble) also are on the bill.

Rounding out the whole thing is Billy Cox, a long-time friend of Hendrix, who played bass in both the Jimi Hendrix Experience and Band of Gypsys.

As timing has it, the local show is the same day the much-anticipated previously unreleased Hendrix album “Valley of Neptunes” hits stores.

In announcing the tour, its producer John McDermott said in a press release: “The line-up for this tour reflects the breadth of Jimi’s ongoing influence that reaches down through the generations … The Experience Hendrix tour is all about musical camaraderie and the recognition that Jimi Hendrix, undeniably, casts the longest shadow in the realm of great music and great musicians.”Shepherd says the tour is “almost like summer camp for guitar players.”

“Not only am I a guitar player and a fan of Hendrix, but I’m a fan of great guitar players,” he says. “It’s all these guys who are your friends, and who you respect them and everybody’s jamming out. Being on stage is great, but it’s the behind the scenes stuff that is sometimes the most fun for me.”

Shepherd played the first “Experience Hendrix” concert, when it was just one a one-day event in Seattle. He was part of the first tour in 2004, another in 2007 and then 2008’s big nationwide “Experience Hendrix” tour. On this current run, most shows — including the one here — are sold out.

“It’s more or less a revolving door of artists,” says Shepherd of the stage show. “Usually each artist does three to four songs. Sometimes they team different artists up together on certain songs. There’s a certain level of spontaneity, too. When Buddy Guy was on the tour, you never knew what he was going to do every night.

“We all do only Hendrix stuff. Some people stay more true to the original versions, and some people take it into their own direction.”

Shepherd says this year he is most looking forward to seeing what Satriani does, noting he is one guitar great who hasn’t played “Experience Hendrix” before.

“It’s challenging to go and see these great guitar players under one roof at the same time,” Shepherd says. “This is about your only opportunity to do that.”

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