Neal, born in New Orleans and raised in Baton Rouge, began playing music at a very young age, learning the basics from his father, singer and blues harmonica player, Raful Neal. Family friends like Lazy Lester, Buddy Guy and Slim Harpo also contributed to Kenny's early musical education. At 17, he was recruited and toured extensively as Buddy Guy's bass player. Through the years, he has shared the stage or worked with a who's-who list of blues and R&B greats at one time or another, including B.B. King, Bonnie Raitt, Muddy Waters, Aaron Neville, Buddy Guy and John Lee Hooker. The Chicago Tribune pegged Kenny as "one of a mere handful of truly inventive young contemporary guitarists, Neal has something fresh to say and the chops with which to say it," while AllMusic said his "gruff-before-their-time vocals retain their swamp sensibility, while assuming a bright contemporary feel that tabs him as a leading contender for future blues stardom." Blues Revue agreed, calling Kenny "one of the brightest young stars on the blues horizon, and a gifted artist." His 2004 release with Billy Branch, Double Take, garnered Kenny a W.C. Handy award for Best Album.