ALBUM REVIEW: On Safari – The Kentucky Headhunters

Starting out as two brothers in 1968, Southern outfit THE KENTUCKY HEADHUNTERS has grown, had a few line-up changes and won the hearts of many gaining them four consecutive Top 40 hits all whilst keeping its Southern country spirit. Now they’re back with new album, On Safari.

It’s made clear right at the start what kind of album you’ve let yourself in for with country guitar twangs, rhythmic and defiant riffs, and a strong Southern American accent. Memorable chorus spelling out Kentucky, clearly proud of their origins as they describe popular culture “cornbread bread, sweet tea, barbeque and cherry pie” in fast, but entertaining lists, keeping alive the humour that accompanies many country songs. Emotive and detailed descriptions paint a glorious picture in any listeners’ head of Kentucky and a country boy’s life. Similar to the works of BLACK STONE CHERRY, which is less than surprising as their drummer, John Fred Young, is son of guitarist Richard Young.

Ticking all the boxes for southern rock, with strong dashes of blues, Deep South Blues Again showcases Doug Phelps (vocals) ability as he adapts his country voice becoming gruff, with a Lemmy (MOTORHEAD) quality, yet holding onto the blues sound. The fourth track on the album is a cover of ALICE COOPER’s Caught In A Dream, originally released in 1971, one of their more bluesy numbers so a logical choice to cover. Again Phelps’ voice moulds to the song and has some of the power and distinctive sound of Marvin Aday (MEATLOAF).

Layered guitars kick off Lowdown Memphis Town Blues, and takes on a slower, sadder turn with discussion of being “lost in Memphis” and “wearing out my shoes” but taking a happier turn with the inspiration message “It doesn’t matter as long as you believe.” A strong drum beat carries the tune, emulating the emotion, and allowing the lyrics to shine. One of the stronger songs on the album and one that will be remembered in years to come.

The second cover of the album is Charlie DanielsWay Down Yonder, originally released in 1974, picks the beat back up and after some sad songs. One of the more country based songs on the album, with less focus on blues, it fits in nicely. Governor’s Cup rounds up the album, an acoustic piece calming down after the upbeat songs before. It focuses on intricate plucking, and overlaying a blues guitar and a bass to complement one another. An interesting choice to end the album on, but it works.

On Safari incorporates country guitar twangs and strong southern accents, whilst embracing all things blues at the same time, it’s not breaking any boundaries but bringing home all those established and fine tuned practices. Whilst being separate genres in their own right, THE KENTUCKY HEADHUNTERS bring them together in a way that compliments one another. For any fans of country or blues, this is an album to check out.

Rating: 7/10

On Safari - The Kentucky Headhunters

On Safari is out now via Plowboy Records.