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Soul - Kentucky Headhunters
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Reviewed by Matt Bjorke

The Kentucky Headhunters first appeared on the national country music scene in 1989, with their first Top 25 hit song "Walk Softly On This Heart Of Mine." The band's CD, Pickin' On Nashville became a big hit with both fans and critics eventually garnering three more hit songs including the Top 15 "Dumas Walker," and the band's lone Top 10 hit, "Oh, Lonesome Me." While they won a Grammy for their brand of country rock in 1990, the band hasn't hit the Top 40 of any chart since 1990. That's not to say that The Kentucky Headhunters haven't been putting out music since then, it's just that the Headhunters haven't really bothered to get any airplay exposure in the past 13 years.

After a decade with Mercury Nashville, the Headhunters joined BNA Records for one album before signing in 2000 with Audium Records. Their first release for Audium saw a return to the band's core sound of country fried blues rock, much like what Delbert McClinton has been doing for years. With their new album Soul, the Kentucky Headhunters present more of the same kind of stuff, greasy country rock with some blues boogie mixed in for good measure.

The opening track "Everyday People" features stunning blues-pop vocals from Doug Phelps (his brother Ricky Lee Phelps was the original singer for the band before they formed Brothers Phelps in 1993). This song is a song about the common man and how they fit in with the world, "Everyday people are alright." This song is also the one that got the band signed to their first publishing deal back in the 1980's.

"That's Alright" is a fun song about the way some girls can be wild. This hook filled swampy styled rocker is one that the Headhunters call their "English Street Anthem." It is pure ear candy that will have you singing along to the "ooh-it's alright" part of the chorus.

"You Got It" is a textured ballad that would've been a huge hit in the 1970's. That's not to say it couldn't be a hit these days it just would fit in well with southern rock songs from that era. With the lyrics and melody about a woman who has "got it," this song would fit in on a number of contemporary country artists' own albums. That being said, The Headhunters wrote this and Doug Phelps sings it as if he's lived the lyrics of this love song.

"Lonely Nights" is probably the "countriest" sounding song on the whole album. It's a song about a guy who cannot seem to please the woman he loves despite trying hard and thus she leaves him and it just tears him apart. There's some fine Hammond B-3 organ and even a horn section that adds to the textured style of the melody.

"Last Night I Met Carl Perkins" brings the band back to their signature sound of the late 1980's. It has that swampy Rockabilly sound to it that made Carl Perkins, Johnny Cash and Elvis famous.

"I Still Wanna Be Your Man" is a song written by the late blues legend Eddie Hinton. It is also one of two songs sang by Richard Young. He doesn't possess the smooth baritone that Dough Phelps has but his gritty voice fits this blues rocker like a glove. If you want the definition of a greasy sounding soul song, then listen to "I Still Wanna Be Your Man."

The other song featuring Richard Young singing the lead vocals is a cover of the Eric Clapton classic "Have You Ever Loved A Woman." This is pretty much a note for note cover of a classic blues ballad. The instrumentation is what sets this song apart from other covers. The Kentucky Headhunters simply know their instruments well and inject so much energy and soul into the song. The great blues player Reese Wynans plays the piano on this and Blues guitarist Johnny Johnson also guests on the highlight of the album.

While the Kentucky Headhunters seem to be distancing themselves from the country boogie that got them their Hit singles and Grammy, from a few spins of their new CD Soul, it's not hard to see that the band fully enjoys what they are doing and know that they aren't chart players at this time in their career so why not make the music they love, even if it's only remotely country music which is basically all the band was to begin with. Soul is an album all fans of the Kentucky Headhunters should own. Those who like country influenced songs might want to check it out as well.

Song List:

  1. Everyday People
  2. That's Alright
  3. You Got It
  4. Lonely Nights
  5. We All Need It
  6. My Sunny Days
  7. Last Night I Met Carl Perkins
  8. I Still Wanna Be Your Man
  9. Lookin' For Mr. Perfect
  10. Have You Ever Loved A Woman
  11. What You See Is What You Get (A. "Give Me Some Skin"/B. "Kentucky Jam")

Album cover used with permission of Audium.
MP3 clips courtesy of the Kentucky Headhunters Official Website.

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