10 Days Out: Blues From the Backroads

Kenny Wayne Shepherd

Kenny Wayne Shepherd and some of the greatest blues artists perform a one-time only concert at the Church at Blue Heavens Studios in Salina Kansas, including members of both Muddy Water’s and Howlin’ Wolf’s backing bands. Shepherd has now taken this unprecedented event and turned it into a special CD/DVD called 10 Days Out: Blues From the Backroads. But this set is more about the road leading to that concert than the concert itself.

Aided by the Double Trouble rhythm section of Chris Layton and Tommy Shannon, Kenny Wayne Shepherd and crew, including producer Jerry Harrison of “Talking Heads” fame, crawled through the back ways and byways of New Orleans, Shreveport, Salina (Kansas), and various other towns and cities in between to find, record, and interview some of the greatest living blues musicians. What Shepherd encountered were the true masters like B.B. King, Clarence “Gatemouth” Brown, and Etta Baker. They (and us) are treated to outdoor jam sessions, intimate club moments, and even some barbecue. This well-shot DVD is a chronicle of not only our living blues guys and girls, but also the history of the blues as these older ‘cats’ lay down.

My hat is off to Mr. Shepherd. He plays as well as ever, but mostly he listens. 10 Days Out is more a master class about life than it is about playing (although there is a lot of playing to be sure). These older musicians, averaging 80 years old, relate past experiences and their hard-lived lives in sometimes humorous, always poignant detail (if ever there was a point to be made about an artist’s life imitating their art, this is it!). I was riveted by the stories these people related and the passion for what they played. The highlight for me wasn’t the music; it was the people talking about the music.

Baker is a delight, sitting and playing in her kitchen, just her and Shepherd. She does so much with ease and pure joy that it is breathtaking to watch her play and talk…not to mention marvel at her dexterity at 90! Her good humor — the way she simply relates how when playing songs she dreams and how her father taught her without the aid of sheet music or any formal training — truly speaks to what blues music really is and how it has survived for so long.

An unfortunate fact that makes 10 Days Out unique is that from the time they shot this film to when it was being prepared to be released, a few of the participants have passed on. If there ever was a need for a film like this — and this need Shepherd does press home pretty heavily — it’s to recognize the legends of the blues who participated in its making. A concert in that wonderful church setting or hearing the musicians laugh with each other as they recall their careers — 10 Days Out turns out to be a great historical document I’d highly recommend.

~ Ralph Greco, Jr.

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