Stephen Stills didn't initially want the new blues-inspired collective he formed with Barry Goldberg and Kenny Wayne Shepherd to be called The Rides. He had another name in mind to express the inspirations in the band's roots-directed, guitar-centric music.
"I actually wanted to call the band 'The Ghost Riders' because we are feeding off the many generations before us," said the double inductee to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.
"But we also feed off each other and what we have garnered from a hundred years of blues and 200 years of pre-Nashville country. Just simple love songs, just the simplest kinds of music that you can make at home or on the front porch — that's what we're feeding off of. And because all three of us love it, the process between the three of us making it is virtually instantaneous."
Stills will introduce The Rides to the region with performances Saturday in Cincinnati and Monday at the Lexington Opera House.
To appreciate how The Rides got rolling, become acquainted with a 1968 record of loose, impromptu jams called Super Session. Stills and pianist Goldberg played on it but not together. Goldberg contributed to two tracks with his Electric Flag bandmate, guitarist Michael Bloomfield. After Bloomfield bailed on the album, Stills, then in his final days with Buffalo Springfield (the first of the two bands that landed him in the Hall of Fame), was quickly recruited.
Amazingly, Stills and Goldberg wouldn't work together until the idea for The Rides was triggered 45 years later.
"Unless the wax melted on Super Session, we never came together for a long, long time," Goldberg said. "Basically what happened was our mutual manager, Elliot Roberts, was over at my house, and we had a poker game. Elliott was looking at some of my records and saw the Super Session record and a lot of my blues stuff and he said, 'You know, Stephen was talking to me about maybe making a blues-oriented record just to have a good time and play. Maybe you guys can write together. I thought, 'Wow. That would be amazing.'
"So it started out with the concept of a jam sort of thing, but it was actual songs that we were writing and not just eight-minute jams. Still, we needed a third person, maybe a younger person to come in and join us. The mutual idea was one of my favorite guitar players, Kenny Wayne Shepherd."
One of the most popular torch-bearers of blues-directed guitar rock to emerge after the death of Stevie Ray Vaughan, Shepherd released his first album, Ledbetter Heights, which went platinum, while he was in his late teens. He is now 36.
Just as Stills maintains his partnership with David Crosby and Graham Nash (which put him into the Hall of Fame a second time) and Goldberg stays active as a songwriter and instrumentalist, Shepherd continues to front his own band.
"Everybody has their own career going," Shepherd said. "Obviously, Stephen has CSN. I have my band. Barry has his songwriting career. But all of those things considered and all of those things aside, I don't think The Rides is going to be a one-off thing. We've already started the songwriting process for another record. Of course, there's got to be a balance there. I mean, Stephen is going to have to do shows with his band. I'm going to have to do shows with my band. But I think we all can the find the right opportunities and create the right balance between these bands, because I feel like this is a priority for all of us as well."
To call the August-released Rides debut Can't Get Enough a blues album is misleading. There are several blues entries in the record's 10-song lineup (Elmore James' Talk to Me Baby and Muddy Waters' Honey Bee), but there also are several new works co-written by the three Rides co-pilots that combine hearty guitar exchanges and juke joint-flavored piano work (Roadhouse and Can't Get Enough of Losing You). Capping it all are well-amped covers of the Stooges classic Search and Destroy and even Rockin' in the Free World, an anthem penned by Stills' Buffalo Springfield (and occasional CSN) bandmate, Neil Young.
Of particular interest is Word Game, an acoustic tune written and recorded decades ago by Stills but recut by The Rides with an electric authority that enhances the song's still-topical narrative slant.
"I quit even listening back to the rough mixes as we made the album," Stills said. "It was like, if these two said I got a good vocal performance, then I don't want to hear it. We would all feel that and just go home after a session. When we came back the next day, the music we heard could have just sucked, but it never did. That's how we recorded the album in seven days and seven nights.
"I'm really happy with it, too. It's simple and straightforward. There aren't any tricks to it. What you hear is what you get, but it's only going to get better because by the time we get on the road to play, we will actually have had time to rehearse."
IF YOU GO
■ As part of the Ohio River Throwdown, also featuring Tedeschi Trucks Band, Los Lobos, J.J. Grey and Mofro, more. 12:45 p.m. Sept. 14. Riverbend Music Center and PNC Pavilion, 6295 Kellogg Ave., Cincinnati. $49.50-$69.50. Ticketmaster, 1-800-745-3000 or Ticketmaster.com. Ohioriverthrowdown.tumblr.com.
■ With Beth Hart. 7:30 p.m. Sept. 16. Lexington Opera House, 401 W. Short. St. $65.50, $75.50. (859) 233-3535 or Ticketmaster. Lexingtonoperahouse.com.
Read Walter Tunis' blog, The Musical Box, at LexGo.com.