Wednesday, October 27, 2021

The Kentucky Headhunters - That's A Fact, Jack!

The Kentucky Headhunters do their own thing.  They’ve won country music awards, and they’ve been pegged as Southern Rock, and yeah I suppose those labels fit now and then.  But mostly they’re a bunch of rock’n’rollers who’ve been doing whatever they wanna do for a long, loooong time, and judging by That’s A Fact, Jack! they’re still having a ball doing it.
The opening ‘Gonna Be Alright’, for example, is mid-paced and laid back, with Fred Young deliciously behind the beat on drums.  It’s infectiously simple, with trilling guitar fills from Greg
The Kentucky Headhunters - barn-burningly good!
Pic by Joe McNally

Martin along the way, until it gains intensity towards the end.  That lazy beat from Fred Young
returns later in the service of ‘We Belong Together’, a warm and mellow slice of romance with typically expressive vocals from bassist Doug Phelps, and an immaculate bitter-sweet solo from Martin – whose playing, I may say, is outstanding throughout.
They can do country-ish Southern Rock balladry like falling off a log, as on ‘Susannah’ for example, factoring in subtle dynamics as they gradually raise the temperature via a shift in the riff and some walloping drum fills, leading up to a chiming outro.  There’s organ in the mix there too, as there is cushioning the similar, heartsick ‘Lonely Too Long’, the bass and drums bouncing off each other as Martin adds some elegant guitar embroidery.
But they can rock too, as on the hooky ‘How Could I’, on which Fred Young’s snappy snare drum perfectly punctuates a cracking little riff, while Martin contributes some deliciously slippery slide.  But that’s just a warm-up for ‘That’s A Fact, Jack’ itself, on which churning guitars herald a gruff, finger-pointing vocal from Richard Young, while that punchy snare drum locks things together and Martin comes up with a suitably sizzling solo.  And still, that’s nothing compared to the bonkers penultimate track, ‘Shotgun Effie’, a tyre-squealing rocker with a grabber of a riff, on which Greg Martin takes a turn behind the mic.  He’s only a little fella, but he doesn’t half sound mean, like Billy Gibbons on the morning after the night before, with thumping drums and some skidpan-worthy slide guitar for good measure.  Oh yeah, and they knock off some old-fashioned rock’n’roll along the way, on ‘Heart And Soul’, with bopping bass from Phelps, swinging drums, satisfying harmonies, and a couple of effortless guitar breaks, all in the space of three minutes.
And in addition to all that, they’re funny too.  ‘Cup Of Tea’, with its Byrds-like ringing and weaving guitars, is a catchy, smile-inducing number, the kind of tune you feel you’ve known forever and a day.  But in place of the Byrds’ soaring harmonies drummer Fred Young delivers vocal that’s croaky, relaxed and humorous, and still romantic in an everyday kinda way.  Meanwhile the closing ‘Let’s Get Together And Fight’ is an ironic, booze-infused Christmas song, nodding heavily towards ‘Rockin’ Around The Christmas Tree’ but painting a picture of bickering and fisticuffs rather than peace and goodwill.  Yea and verily, it deserves to become an alternative festive classic.
Listen up good people - The Kentucky Headhunters may be a bunch of old geezers, but they’re also the gen-yoo-wine article, as That’s A Fact, Jack! demonstrates.  I know it’s only rock’n’roll, but you’ll like it, like it, yes you will!
That’s A Fact, Jack! is out now on Practice House Records, and available on all digital platforms here.

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