When the Kentucky Headhunters released their debut album, Pickin’ On Nashville, in 1989, they pioneered a new southern rock and modern country sound that took over the airwaves for the next decade. With hits like “Dumas Walker,” “Walk Softly On This Heart Of Mine” and “Oh Lonesome Me,” the album would go on to sell two million copies and win them their only Grammy Award. Twenty-five years later, the band is still going strong and spanning multi-genres as it reinvents itself with On Safari, available November 4th on Plowboy Records/Practice House Records.
With nearly 50 years of success, the project tips the hat to family and the southern way of life. Band members Richard and Fred Young lost their father just three days before heading into the studio to record the project which is dedicated to their father. This caused the brothers to pour even more emotion into the twelve track album.
The album’s sound was very surprising to me. I had only known the group from the Nineties heyday, so it was very refreshing to hear them playing full on blues. Several of the songs are rocking pretty hard and feature a killer slide guitar which makes the sound more southern rock. Many solos are reminiscent of Eric Clapton and B.B. King blues licks. The closing track, “Governors Cup,” is an instrumental ode to their country roots.
Unlike most albums, there’s not one bad song on the album. The first four tracks — “Beaver Creek Mansion,” “Deep South Blues Again,” “I Am The Hunter,” and “Caught In A Dream” — are among my favorites. Production is minimal but reflective of the genre. Guitars, bass, drums, vocals and organ all tie in nicely together and nothing else is needed.
The band may not strike a mainstream audience with On Safari, but its core fans and classic rock and blues listeners will surely appreciate the project. Clocking in slightly under 40 minutes, the album would make a great addition to many purist listeners.