Kenny Wayne Shepherd is currently touring the U.S. as part of the Experience Hendrix Tour 2012, which features a number of kick-ass guitarists - including Buddy Guy, Aerosmith's Brad Whitford, Dweezil Zappa and many others - pay tribute to the late legend. So we figured we'd get his thoughts on 10 of his favorite Jimi Hendrix songs. Enjoy!
Before we get to the list, are you more of a Jimi Hendrix Experience guy or a Band of Gypsys guy?
That’s a hard question to answer, to be honest with you, because both bands were really great, but I probably lean more towards the Jimi Hendrix Experience. I loved listening to Hendrix doing more blues and R&B stuff, but for me, he pushed the boundaries of music more when he was leaning more in a rock direction, and to me the Jimi Hendrix Experience was more of a rock band.
"Voodoo Child (Slight Return)" – This is my favorite Hendrix song, and we end every one of my shows with that song. I’ve been doing that since I was 15 years old and put my first band together. I just think it’s one of the greatest rock guitar anthems ever written. A pretty swanky little groove there, you know?
"Are You Experienced?" – To me, that song makes a huge statement. It’s almost a song he wrote in honor of his band, speaking to the fans about his music and the band. And also the way they experimented in the studio, with the backwards drums and guitar and that stuff, it’s just very unique. I’ll never forget the first time I heard that song. I was just blown away by the sounds they were creating on that particular track. So to me, that’s a signature Hendrix song.
"Purple Haze" – I think that’s probably one of the songs guitar players learn first; when you start learning the guitar, it’s inevitable that you want to learn some Hendrix stuff, and "Purple Haze" is usually the first song guitar players learn of Jimi’s music. It’s just interesting; he starts off with that really weird riff and then it goes into a really cool groove, but it’s one of his more mainstream songs. Everybody knows it.
"Foxey Lady" – I just like that song 'cause I liked how Hendrix incorporated his sexuality and his love for women into his music. This entire song, he’s seducing a woman, and it’s just a killer, guitar-driven track. The main riff is really heavy and drives the entire song.
"Little Wing" – Obviously a very well-known song. I think the live versions are more interesting than the recorded version, cause the studio version is actually quite short. But just great imagery in his lyrics, and the composition, musically, is very impressive. It really takes things beyond your standard three-chord blues song, and shows some of his real talent as far as lyrics and musical depths goes. There’s a lot of different directions you can take that song.
"Crosstown Traffic" – That’s just a fun song to me, man. It’s one of those songs, when I get in my car, it’s one of the first songs I play. It really makes you wanna put the hammer down and just enjoy life and music in general. It just makes me feel good.
"Spanish Castle Magic" – I always lean very heavily toward the songs Hendrix wrote that have these huge, signature guitar riffs in them, and "Spanish Castle Magic" is another one where this really heavy riff drives the entire song, and it’s another really cool showcase for Mitch Mitchell’s drumming, 'cause there’s all kinds of different time signatures and stuff like that, and the way he really works the snare drum throughout the entire song is really cool. I always thought Mitch Mitchell was as much a part of the signature Hendrix sound as Jimi was, you know?
"Red House" – Obviously, because I’m a blues guy, I love hearing Hendrix play the blues, and that’s probably the one blues song he’s most well known for playing and recording. Although if you look at the course of his career, he covered a lot of blues songs and was very heavily influenced by blues people like Muddy Waters and Buddy Guy and lots of other artists.
"Angel" – Just a beautiful ballad. Again, his songwriting ability, the lyrics, the depth – this song is absolutely beautiful. It shows a more tender side to him, which I really like. I’m a big fan of slow songs and ballads, and this one is just great. And there’s lots of killer guitar work; even though to me the vocal melody and the lyrics are the highlight of the song, if you listen to what he’s playing on guitar, it’s a pretty complicated song. It’s interesting when somebody’s able to write a complicated ballad, but it doesn’t sound like it’s overdone. He plays exactly the most appropriate stuff for that song.
"Castles Made of Sand" – Again, he paints a very vivid picture in that song with his lyrics. It’s kind of a sad story, but it’s one of the songs I remember trying to learn to play as a very young kid. And for some reason, when you’re going through a range of emotions as a young person, this was one of Hendrix’s songs that really stood out to me and just showed his ability to tell an interesting story that was different than just about all of his other songs. He just painted a really interesting picture with his lyrics and with his guitar.
The Experience Hendrix Tour rolls on through the end of the month; click here for dates.
What are your favorite Jimi Hendrix songs? Tell us in comments!