Album Reviews

The Kentucky Headhunters

On Safari

Artist:     The Kentucky Headhunters

Album:     On Safari

Label:     Plowboy/Practice House

Release Date:     11/04/2016


The Kentucky Headhunters have never been the type to easily fit in. Growing up in rural Kentucky, they began instinctually as a rock ‘n’ roll band when the rest of their friends and family were naturally drawn to the pervasive music of the region– country and bluegrass. Almost fifty years and twelve studio albums later, it is fair to say that the Kentucky Headhunters have crossed more genres than most bands, while maintaining their rock ‘n’ roll roots. Drummer Fred Young says, “we are who we are and that’s what makes us what we have become. From our life experiences and how we approach and interpret music is how we became a band that tells real life stories. We are a band of many styles: rock, blues, country, jazz, bluegrass, rockabilly and other roots music. That is the foundation of our sound. Johnnie Johnson once told me “Music has no color.” If I had to color the Headhunters, I’d color us music with a feeling.”

In fact, as you may know, this band that once shunned country music won a 1990 Grammy for Pickin’ on Nashville. Just last year they received several awards for Meet Me in Blues Land, issued by Alligator Records from sessions with piano icon Johnnie Johnson, originally recorded in 2003. Through personnel changes and some hiatuses, it’s refreshing to know they are still recording and touring with their patented sound. This project came together on the heels of their first ever European tour, essentially re-invigorating the band’s love of rock. Three days before entering the studio, founding members Richard and Fred Young lost their father. So, they poured even more emotion into these songs, which embody a rich mix of southern rock, blues, touches of country, and heavy rock ‘n’ roll attitude. You’ll undoubtedly hear classic dual guitar southern rock riffs, and as you listen, keep in mind that the Headhunters were here before most of those bands that ply the same turf.

Nine of the twelve tracks are originals, with a scintillating cover of Charlie Daniels’ “Way Down Yonder.” Some of the other notable, can’t miss tracks are “Deep South Blues Again,” “Lowdown Memphis Town Blues,” “Jukebox Full of Blues” and “God Loves a Rolling Stone.” It doesn’t hurt to have stellar keyboardist Kevin McKendree aboard either. This is a CD you need to crank up and play loud. Long may the Kentucky Headhunters run.

-Jim Hynes

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