Jonny Lang and Kenny Wayne Shepherd to co-headline Sunday at the Kirby Center
Hard to believe that the two biggest stars of the “new” generation of blues guitarists – Jonny Lang and Kenny Wayne Shepherd – have been around for two decades.
It may be even harder to believe that besides the multi-guitarist “Experience Hendrix” tours, Lang and Shepherd have never toured together – until now.
The two guitar slingers, each of whom released his debut album in 1995, will embark on their first-ever co-headlining tour, playing 13 shows together in June. The joint trek will stop at the F.M. Kirby Center in Wilkes-Barre on Sunday.
“This is something we’ve talked about doing for a long time,” Lang said in a phone call to Weekender. “It’s been years and years that I’ve known Kenny, running into each other on the road or doing the Hendrix shows.”
Lang said he and Shepherd would each be playing full sets separately, but don’t rule out some jamming. “Oh I’m sure we’ll end up playing together,” he said.
Shepherd, now 37, was born in Shreveport, Louisiana, and got his first guitar at the age of 3 or 4. He has released seven studio albums and one live album since 1995 (when he was 18), including his latest, 2014’s “Goin’ Home.”
Shepherd’s most famous tunes, all of which hit the Top 30 on the Billboard Mainstream Rock chart, include “Deja Voodoo” (1995), “Slow Ride” (1997), “Blue on Black” (1998), and “Everything Is Broken” (1998).
The current version of the Kenny Wayne Shepherd Band includes lead vocalist Noah Hunt, drummer Chris Layton (newly inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame as part of Stevie Ray Vaughan & Double Trouble), bassist Tony Franklin (formerly of The Firm with Jimmy Page and Paul Rodgers), and keyboard player Riley Osbourn.
Lang, now 34, picked up his first guitar at age 12 and released his first album (“Smokin’” by Kid Jonny Lang & The Big Bang) at the age of 14. He has released six more studio albums and one live album since 1995. After years of alcoholism and drug abuse, he became a Christian in 2000.
His latest album is 2013’s “Fight for My Soul,” which reached No. 1 on the Billboard Blues Albums chart, No. 2 on the Billboard Christian Albums chart and No. 50 on the Billboard 200.
For the joint tour, Lang said his set will focus more on his earlier blues material.
“Probably a few more tunes closer to the blues-guitar stuff since that’s more of the audience that will be there,” he said. “My newer stuff is kind of different.”
Lang acknowledged he has been slower to release new albums lately – the 2013 album was his
first in seven years, but it’s not for lack of material.
“Yeah, fortunately, material isn’t the problem,” he said. “It’s more about the allocation of time spent. I have my family time (Lang and former “Kids Incorporated” cast member Haylie Johnson married in 2001 and have four children) and I am out on the road the rest of the time.
“To cut a record and really do it right is a pretty big investment of time.”
Over the years, Lang has toured and performed with The Rolling Stones, Buddy Guy, Aerosmith, Blues Traveler, Jeff Beck, Sting, and B.B. King. During our call, he reminisced about King, who passed at the age of 89 in May.
“He had a really good run,” Lang said, noting his biggest influences on guitar were King and Albert Collins, plus King was a big influence vocally. “He seemed like the kind of person that wouldn’t take anything back, and that helps me personally to know that.
“As a young, white guy, you know, I was culturally a complete stranger to this music and he accepted me and was really encouraging. You can’t imagine how great that was to a young player.”