304 North Cardinal St.
Dorchester Center, MA 02124
304 North Cardinal St.
Dorchester Center, MA 02124
The Kentucky Headhunters have only (comparatively) recently, on this side of the pond at least, begun to make waves and yet they started way back in 1968…after a healthy diet of British rock (Cream, Cactus and the Rolling Stones, The Kinks and The Faces to name a few) a group of friends formed a band called Itchy Brother…a great name and, to make sure they didn’t irritate(!) they rehearsed in a farmhouse in the depths of err, Kentucky. In 1986, a lineup change led to a rebrand and they tacked their home state on the front of the nickname for Muddy Waters’ band, the Headhunters…the rest, as they say, is history. A number of very successful albums followed (including one recorded with blues piano maestro Johnnie Johnson called, Meet Me In Blues Land. In my humble opinion, still one of their best, alongside Dixie Lullabies.) and, once a fear of flying was overcome, they began to perform in Europe and the UK and took The Ramblin’ Man Fair by storm in 2018…a live album is available if you doubt me! Also, please see Liz’s thoughts on the previous album, On Safari and tours here on Bluesdoodles.
Now they have released their latest album called, rather subtly, …That’s A Fact Jack! on their own Practice House Records label; named after that farmhouse from ’68.
The opener, Gonna Be Alright, starts with a lovely gospel/field chant and quickly turns into a blues song of pure class that will have some reaching for Joey B comparisons…it is that good. A simple(fish) structure allows the guitar phrasing to shine over the drum and neat bass and after a clever bridge, a very nice picked solo. A great start that is continued on How Could I is a brilliant melange of country, blues and the 70s rock of T Rex or The Faces…however, the twang in the vocals leave you in no doubt that this is Southern varieties of those styles…it does work, and the slide solo is delicious.
Water Colors, In The Rain, has a great blues heavy riff but then dissolves into a Petty style that almost spoils it for me: it’s saved by the guitar punctuations and a wide-ranging, powerful solo. The next track, Susannah, is essentially a ballad that starts a lot like a lot of modern Southern rockers but, again, a tasteful, well-toned and brutally short solo makes them stand apart. Cup Of Tea seems an unlikely beverage for a song from Kentucky; but why not? It is actually a semi-humorous love song about a girl who is “my cup of tea”…it is irresistible in a weird way: it reminds me of Roy Orbison doing blues layered country with The Wilburys. The love declarations keep coming on We Belong Together; a multi-layered country blues that has some lovely chord work in the backing. The solo is suitably pitched with a nice touch to the bends and sustain.
The title track, That’s A Fact Jack, is heavier blues with a touch of the Leslie West’s…and that is a very good thing. Exploitation of Mother Earth is at the hub of the message and the whole thing comes together nicely and is topped by the gritty guitar solo and crescendo ending…” lookout y’all!”
Slower, gentle blues next, with Lonely Too Long: keys wash through the background as the guitars again layer the backing with some great touches and prevent it from being the ‘same old, same old’ cliche it could have been. Heart And Soul combine their country roots with some good ol’ rock ’n’ roll that you can only love as it bops away with more Bolan style chords hidden away. The country picking is spot on too. Cheap Tequila is Southern blues distilled (pun intended) with the superb guitar again warding off the cliches. Shotgun Effie harks back to 1973 when they were still Itchy Brother and this update is simple genius: rock chords, slide guitar and plenty of guitar between the lines and another solid solo…all wrapped in a song about a gun-toting grandmother!
The final track, Let’s All Get Together And Fight, is a Southern country song about how to celebrate a holiday…stuffed with humour; “it wouldn’t be Christmas without black eyes.” The melody borrows from a Christmas song but wraps it in country and you will be smiling during the whole thing. I may be Bah Humbug for Christmas songs but this one just about gets away with it through humour and clever guitars. A strange, but neat way, of wrapping up a very strong album a bit like Van Halen used to with songs like Happy Trails off Diver Down.
Bluesdoodles rating: 4 Doodle Paws – a great listen on an album packed with irresistible rhythms and true class in the playing…impossible to not enjoy.
Gonna Be Alright
How Could I
Water Colors, In The Rain Susannah
Cup Of Tea
We Belong Together
That’s A Fact Jack
Lonely Too Long
Heart And Soul
Let’s All Get Together And Fight
Richard Young: rhythm guitar, lead and harmony vocals
Fred Young: drums, lead and harmony vocals)
Greg Martin: lead, acoustic and slide guitar, lead and harmony vocals
Doug Phelps: Bass, lead and harmony vocals
(iTunes moved to a 1980 release from Kansas (the band) member Kerry Livgren and his solo album called Seeds of Change which actually featured a guest vocal from none other than Ronnie James Dio on two tracks…check out the ‘Smoke’ and orchestra influenced Mask of the Great deceiver for great guitar and, of course, vocals.)