The Kentucky Headhunters: Live at the Ramblin’ Man Fair
The roots of The Kentucky Headhunters stretch back half a century, when guitarist Richard Young, his drummer and brother Fred, guitarist Greg Martin and bassist Anthony Kenney formed what was then called Itchy Brother. A couple of lineup changes, including the addition of current bassist Doug Phelps, and an upgrade of the band’s name, came about in the late-‘80s, and about a dozen albums and countless gigs have carried them to the present day. In all of that time though, the band never toured overseas, due to Richard’s fear of flying. In the summer of 2016, The Kentucky Headhunters finally made the trek and this souvenir is a taste of what went down at the festival date in Maidstone, U.K. As might be expected, it’s a raucous affair, stacked with crunchy guitar riffs, thumping drums and the blues-infused vocals that have always marked the band’s approach. Perhaps because their studio album On Safari was still a few months away from release, the band stuck to older material and covers here, opening their set with a merciless run-through of the Jimmy Reed blues standard “Big Boss Man,” from 2005’s same-named album. “Ragtop,” from their debut, and other older tracks like “Wishin’ Well” and “My Daddy Was a Milkman,” are reminiscent of the band’s Southern-rock roots, their instrumental attack somewhat fiercer but the harmonies still intact. Augmenting the somewhat-brief release are three bonus tracks featuring the late pianist Johnnie Johnson (Chuck Berry’s longtime accompanist) and bassist Anthony Kenney, highlighted by a roadhouse rave-up on “Hi-Heel Sneakers,” a garage-band staple that Itchy Brother probably knew damn well too.