Dickey Betts on Music Maker Relief Foundation advisory board|
By Barry A. Jeckell
NEW YORK (Billboard) - Kenny Wayne Shepherd is spending a good part of this month filming a blues music documentary that will raise funds for Southern musicians in need.
Across a 10-day period that began June 8, the blues guitar prodigy will record and film performances with the likes of B.B. King, Clarence "Gatemouth" Brown, Hubert Sumlin, Pinetop Perkins and "Steady Rollin"' Bob Margolin in juke joints, on front porches and in other comfortable settings.
Filmmaker Noble Jones will direct the project, which will see future release on DVD and CD. Talking Heads alumnus Jerry Harrison will produce the audio recording. A "substantial share of the profits" from the project will benefit the Music Maker Relief Foundation (http://www.musicmaker.org/) (MMRF).
Shepherd's travels will take him to New Orleans and Shreveport, La., Indianola, Miss; Gadsden, Ala.; Hillsborough, N.C.; St. Louis, Mo.; and Salina, Kan. Along for the ride is the Double Trouble rhythm section (drummer Chris Layton and bassist Tommy Shannon), as well as vocalist Noah Hunt, guitarist Joe Nadeau and multi-instrumentalist Jimmy Wallace.
Others on the visiting list include Bryan Lee, Jerry McCain, Willie "Big Eyes" Smith, Sam Lay, "Wild Child" Butler, Henry Townsend, Honeyboy Edwards, Cootie Stark, Essie Mae Brooks, John Dee Holman, Neal Pattman, Etta Baker and Buddy Flett.
The trip will culminate in a June 18 show at Salina's Church of Blue Heaven Studios that will reunite members of the Muddy Waters Band and Howlin' Wolf's band. Tickets are priced at $40 and are available at 800-716-3553.
"I really feel it is as much a tribute to the masters of the blues as a way to raise money for a foundation which supports working musicians who deserve more recognition," Shepherd said. "There are so many great artists working with us on this project, we hope we can bring a new awareness of the blues to music fans all over the country."
Based in Durham, N.C., the MMRF aids "the true pioneers and forgotten heroes of Southern musical traditions gain recognition and meet their day to day needs," according to the organization's mission statement. Along with recording and distributing music, the non-profit also provides food, shelter and medical care to needy artists.
Along with Shepherd and King, the MMRF's advisory board includes Bonnie Raitt, Dickey Betts, Derek Trucks, Susan Tedeschi and Col. Bruce Hampton.
In addition to the documentary, Shepherd is preparing to release a new studio album, due in September via Reprise. The as-yet-untitled set will be the follow-up to 1999's Harrison-produced "Live On," which featured guest turns by the likes of Warren Haynes, Les Claypool, Dr. John and James Cotton. The album bowed at No. 52 on The Billboard 200.