KENNY WAYNE SHEPHERD

"The Place You're In"

Reprise

Finally, blues guitarist Kenny Wayne Shepherd has found a way to shake those persistent and pesky comparisons with Stevie Ray Vaughan. How? By sounding like Lenny Kravitz.

Smart career move? Maybe. Shepherd certainly stands a good chance of getting widespread airplay with "The Place You're In," which marks his vocal debut. But whether blues-rock fans, Shepherd's core following, will welcome this conspicuously stylish collection of funk-rock grooves seems unlikely.

Apparently, that's not a matter of great concern to the young and gifted guitar slinger, considering the way he and Kid Rock merrily cut up on "Spank" or in light of the feelings expressed on "Ain't Selling Out." To wit: "All of these things that you want me to be / It means nothing to me / Ain't that something," scolds Shepherd, who's not a bad singer, as it turns out. (Soul man Noah Hunt, who usually handles the vocals on the guitarist's albums, appears on two tracks this time around.) If Shepherd has any reservations about following Kravitz's flamboyant lead on "Get It Together," "Alive" and other tracks, he hasn't left a hint. Nor has producer and multi-instrumentalist Marti Frederiksen, who, tellingly, has collaborated with artists such as Mick Jagger, Aerosmith and Faith Hill. Still, it's hard to listen to this commercially savvy studio session without thinking that somewhere down the road, a blizzard of press releases will announce Shepherd's return to a leaner, band-driven, blues-rock sound. Or perhaps not thinking so much as hoping.

-- Mike Joyce

Appearing Wednesday at the Birchmere. * To hear a free Sound Bite from Kenny Wayne Shepherd, call Post-Haste at 301-313-2200 and press 8126. (Prince William residents, call 703-690-4110.)