Around the time guitarist Kenny Wayne Shepherd was getting ready to make his 1997 album, Trouble Is …, someone at his label suggested he consider hiring Jerry Harrison as a producer.
“And I said, ‘[The guitarist from] the Talking Heads? What’s this guy know about the blues?’ ” Shepherd recalls.
A lot, it turns out.
“He told me his first band was a blues band,” Shepherd says. “We talked about the blues, and I realized this guy knows his stuff. Then I listened to some of the records he had produced, and sonically, I liked the way that they sounded, so I said let’s do it.”
Harrison has been behind the board for other Shepherd projects through the years. The latest is Can’t Get Enough (429 Records), the blues-infused debut album by The Rides, Shepherd’s new band with singer/guitarist Stephen Stills and keyboardist Barry Goldberg.
“I respect his opinion, and I respect his input,” Shepherd says about Harrison. “He’s really good about focusing in on individual parts and making sure that everybody’s parts are complementing and adding something different to the groove. But he also knows when to stay out of it and just let things happen. He knows when there’s magic happening and there’s no need for intervention, but then he also comes up with these seemingly off-the-wall suggestions.”
A perfect example of that, Shepherd adds, is when Harrison pitched The Rides on doing a cover of “Search and Destroy,” the punk classic by Iggy and the Stooges. Shepherd handles the vocals on that one, as well as on the renditions of the jump-blues favorite “That’s a Pretty Good Love” and the Muddy Waters-penned “Honey Bee.”
Harrison also played a big role in the instrument Goldberg used on the album.
“He’s walking around the studio, and he’s looking at this $100,000 Yamaha piano in the glass isolation booth,” remembers Goldberg, formerly a member of The Electric Flag. “And he says, ‘It’s too clean. It’s too beautiful. It’s too perfect. Why don’t you run down to Hollywood Piano and look around and play some of the funky pianos they have there? Don’t worry if it’s out of tune because that’s sort of what we’re looking for.’
“Somebody drove me down there, and I played about four or five pianos. And one of them was a student piano — it had a barrelhouse feel and an upright vibe to it. I said, ‘Send that over — that’s the one.’ And that’s the piano that we used for the session. It had a funky club sound to it.”
— By Chris M. Junior
The Rides on tour (schedule subject to change):
* Aug. 28-29: Iridium Jazz Club — New York
* Sept. 1: Tropicana Casino — Atlantic City, N.J.
* Sept. 3: Bergen Performing Arts Center — Englewood, N.J.
* Sept. 5: Ridgefield Playhouse — Ridgefield, Conn.
* Sept. 7: Wilbur Theatre — Boston
* Sept. 8: NYCB Theatre at Westbury — Westbury, N.Y.
* Sept. 10: Carnegie Library Music Hall — Homestead, Pa.
* Sept. 11: North Shore Center for the Performing Arts — Skokie, Ill.
* Sept. 13: Pabst Theater — Milwaukee
* Sept. 14: PNC Pavilion at Riverbend — Cincinnati
* Sept. 16: Lexington Opera House — Lexington, Ky.
* Sept. 20: Arena Theater — Houston
* Sept. 21: Austin City Limits Live at the Moody Theater — Austin, Texas
* Sept. 25: The Fillmore — San Francisco
* Sept. 27: Grand Sierra Resort and Casino — Reno, Nev.
The Rides (from left): Stephen Stills, Barry Goldberg and Kenny Wayne Shepherd. Photo by Eleanor Stills