THE KENTUCKY HEADHUNTERS SHOW GLASGOW THAT AT LONG LAST IT'S CHITLIN' TIME
Kentucky Headhunters/Bad Touch: O2 ABC Glasgow, 27th July 2016
Unfortunately for me I only made it into Glasgow's ABC 2 part of the way through Bad Touch's support set. By this time they already had the audience interested and on their side and they proceeded to make a lot of new friends among the healthy crowd in attendance.
The Norwich based quintet are another of those young bands who are influenced by the classic blues rock sounds of the seventies and they are pretty good at it with guitarists Rob Glendinning and Daniel Seekings both happy to add a well placed lick when required. More about the groove than filling the songs with too many notes. Singer Stevie Westwood even takes a seventies attitude to facial hair but he is an amiable and friendly presence on stage with a good voice and a bonhomie which goes down very well indeed.
Much of their material is strong, melodic and memorable and songs like new one '99%' bode well for when they get round to recording a follow up to their debut 'Half Way Home'. These guys went down a storm tonight and made a bunch of new friends. All that hard work is starting to pay dividends and it's nice to see.
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The Kentucky Headhunters have been around in various guises since way back in 1968 so it's a little unbelievable that in a career full of Grammy awards and hit songs in their native USA that they have never made it over to the UK to play before now. This is primarily because of founder member Richard Young's fear of flying but as he explains we have his son, John who happens to be the drummer in Black Stone Cherry to thank for finally persuading him to get on a plane for the first time in thirty four years.
It's hard to say that after decades of a wait that it was worth it but seeing these grizzled yet lively old veterans on a stage performing their unique blend of country, rock and blues is a delight for everyone in the ABC.
In a set covering their varied career we get to see how easily experience makes it look with an effortless swagger to their playing in bluesy opener 'Big Boss Man'. Their blues roots get a lot of coverage tonight as they are pushing their album 'Meet Me In Bluesland', their second collaboration with Chuck Berry's old piano player Johnnie Johnson. Recorded a few years before he passed on we got songs like 'Walking With The Wolf' in tribute with lead guitarist Greg Martin showing all his Clapton influences with some searing lead breaks.
The Headhunters have always been keen on throwing in a few covers in a set and tonight they show their love for the classic British sounds with a heartfelt cover of The Animals' 'House Of The Rising Sun'. They added a spirited(if you'll pardon the pun) version of 'Spirit In The Sky' which perfectly suits their jaunty, sub-country treatment and taking the covers thing to what is a logical conclusion if you are familiar with the world of The Kentucky Headhunters 'The Ballad Of Davy Crockett' gets a less than traditional arrangement including some end of tour fun with Bad Touch drummer George Drewry taking over from Fred Young so he can go upfront and add some vocals.
Fred is of course Richard's brother and is a terrific drummer, showing huge power and some subtle dexterity despite the grey hair. He cuts an interesting figure too with sideburns as long as a ZZ Top beard and when a See You Jimmy novelty hat is placed on his head it doesn't seem out of place. I could have done without the drum solo though, something I say at every gig I see one.
The highlights of the show for me though were the classic bouncy boogie tunes which made their name in the US. 'It's Chitlin' Time', 'Walk Softly On This Heart Of Mine' and 'Dumas Walker' are the reasons I got to into this band in the first place and sounded just as good thirty years on with Doug Phelps cultured southern vocals leading the way over some terrific chicken scratch guitar. Definite "yee-haw" moments.
The evening ended with more end of tour fun with a mash up of 'Don't Let Me Down' and 'Hey Jude' allowing both bands on stage for a final tour singalong. This was a really good gig and I hope I don't have to wait until 2040 or thereabouts for the next one from the fabulous headliners.