Something a bit different to the Doom and Gloom of HRH DvS a few days before in Sheffield, it was a fairly miserable Thursday night when the Kentucky Headhunters rolled into the steel city for an eagerly awaited gig at the Corporation. We’ve been spinning the band’s last album On Safari quite a bit here at CBHQ, so to say we were excited about catching the southern fried rockers was a bit of an understatement.
Before the band came on one punter down the front asked the roadie if he could have a copy of the setlist after the gig and the reply, delivered in a southern drawl, summed up what was in store..
“They don’t have a setlist they just play whatever y’all shout out”.
The gig kicks off with the impressively sideburned Fred Young taking his place behind the kit, soon followed onstage by the rest of the band. The phrase “spring chickens” didn’t exactly spring to minds, more like deep fried chicken (Ok, Ok, I promise no more KFC references) but that didn’t stop the band exuding an authentic aura.
Hell you don’t get more authentic than a Davey Crockett ‘coon skin hat.
We’ve got a lot of southern rock bands in the UK, where southern means south of Manchester but these guys are the real deal with tales of life on the farm and their lives so far interspersing the songs.
Almost every track has the feel of a jam about it, a jam by a band who have been doing this for nigh on 50 years. Slipping seamlessly into House Of The Rising Sun gets the crowd singing along as the Headhunters make it look all to easy.
“You guys know a band called Black Stone Cherry?” we’re asked by guitarist Richard (father of John Fred) Young. “We taught them well, taught them guitar to stop them fighting”. The bonus of that teaching… “They’d come to the farm and bring all these girls”.
It’s easy to see where BSC get their blues leanings from, “We beat it imto their heads to like the blues” and, surrounded by music like this, it’s no wonder BSC have taken it to the next level.
Richard does like to chat between songs, at one point telling us about the band’s work with the legendary Johnnie Johnson and choking up with emotion talking about his death in 2005. The crowd stood silently not quite knowing how to respond before Richard choked back the tears and said simply “Fuck it lets play some blues”
You could see the setlist was kinda fluid, with the band pretty much deciding what to play as they went along. There were blues and rock classics, tracks from the bands VERY extensive back catalogue and, of course, a helping from the latest album. As mentioned before we’re big fans of On Safari but tracks like God Loves A Rolling Stone and, particularly, Crazy Jim being elevated to a whole new level live.
It’s impossible not to like the Headhunters, and they seem to like the dingy confines of Corporation. “There’s nothing like playing great clubs like this. Its great fun” the guitarist tells us, .
“Who makes it fun Richard?” asks bassist Doug. Why it’s us lot out front apparently.
“Y’all do, If you weren’t here we’d jut be up here flapping in the wind”.
They even got away with a drum solo. Watching Fred batter lumps out his kit you did kind of wonder how the hell someone of his, erm, advancing years could keep the pace up.
There’s another big singalong as the set draws to a close, Spirit In The Sky may not have been an obvious choice by by ‘heck it worked. More thanks for coming and see y’all laters were forthcoming before the emotion cracked in Richard’s voice again “Fred and I lost our father aboit a year ago, and we went into the studio, and jesus christ it was hard” before finishing up with the song about an angel, Crazy Jim.
Ye gods that was good, one of the best gigs I’ve been to this year. If you like your southern rock authentic, and your blues with a heavy edge then you need to check out the Kentucky Headhunters. There’s 4 dates left on the tour so if you can get to London, Manchester, Newcastle or Glasgow then you bloody well should.
You won’t regret it.