Over an (interrupted) almost fifty year career, the super-durable, country-rock outfit THE KENTUCKY HEADHUNTERS —a project that began with the Young brothers aka Itchy Brother Richard Young, and his younger brother Fred, and their cousins Anthony Kenney and Greg Martin in Glasgow, Kentucky, during the late 1960s — have, over various iterations and tweaks, delivered seventeen albums, more than 25 singles and collected a bucketful of awards, including a “Best Country Performance” Grammy for Pickin’ on Nashville.
The original backfield reincarnated as The Kentucky Headhunters in 1986 when additional brothers Ricky Lee and Doug Phelps joined, after which the band picked up those impressive music awards and began touring with the likes of Hank Williams, Jr. and Delbert McClinton.
During the early 1990s the Phelps brothers departed this line-up to set-up their own country duo, Brother Phelps, while Anthony Kenney rejoined the project as bass guitarist and Mark S. Orr took over as lead vocalist.
Orr left the group in the summer of ‘95 and Doug Phelps rejoined. The band went-on to record a further seven studio albums. And now, in September 2021, the tenacious, ever-passionate and very truly preeminent southern rock grandees announce a brand-new album, and with it, a single, titled ‘How Could I’ (video shared below)
The latest single is released today 24th September 2021, presaging the album’s eagerly awaited album , titled ‘That’s a Fact Jack!’ and set for a 22nd October 2021 release date.
“How Could I” has that familiar honky-tonk bounce we love, plus a magnificent glissando of piano, and a boogie-woogie riff that’s more glam-rock 70s than it is hoedown, potluck cowboy (if you know what we mean…) but that ain’t no bad thing. And anyway, there’s plenty of roadhouse twang and juggy-gurdy to be had in this danceable number! In fact, it’s like something written by Glenn Frey but performed with the groove and swagger of Jagger!
The band had a particular reason for choosing ‘How Could I’ as the first single to spearhead ‘That’s a Fact Jack!’: expected to be an album put together for the love of performing, playing good music as a band. The reason was that this song was co-written with good friends, the hard rockers Black Stone Cherry.
From the start of the recording [this] became an organic mission to bring smiles, love, and cheer…The Heads, 2021
Close family and practical connections exist between The Kentucky Headhunters and Black Stone Cherry via BSC’s drummer, John Fred Young (who’s a founder member of the band and the son of Kentucky Headhunters’ founder members Richard Young, not to mention nephew of The Heads’ drummer Fred Young).
There’s another strong link too: back in his teens, John Fred started to play music with his friend Chris Robertson, with Ben Wells and Jon Lawhon joining them, becoming the founding line-up of Black Stone Cherry. In 2001, the then-newly formed group took over the practice house which had been used by The Kentucky Headhunters since 1968 and began to record tracks.
“‘How Could I’ is about the generations and how life goes,” Richard Young reminisces, “I was this old cat up at the Practice House, writing with Black Stone Cherry, remembering Itchy Brother and the girls coming around – and how some of those girls became our wives. It all goes ‘round, don’t it?”
Richard explains the impulse and drive behind the new album: “’That’s a Fact Jack!’ is a dose of just what the doctor ordered, for the times our world at large has been enduring. After a year and a half of live show cancellations, The Heads decided we had to do something to keep our live playing rigor from rusting over. Plain and simple, we’re determined to be the band we have been for most of our lives. Damn the torpedoes!”
“From the start of the recording, it became an organic mission to bring smiles, love, and cheer to The Heads, as well as our family, friends, fans and anyone else out there who needs a moment of happiness in their lives!”
File alongside: Mid 1970s Rolling Stones crossbred, perhaps, with Take It Easy Eagles !
Pre-save the new album here: https://orcd.co/kentuckyheadhuntersthatsafactjack
Words: @neilmach 2021 ©
Main image: Joe Mcnally