Songs From The Grass String Ranch (Audium)
This is the offbeat act's first album in more than three years - but it's worth waiting for. Brothers Richard and Fred Young and their cousins Greg Martin and Anthony Kenney formed the beginnings of the group in 1968. Doug Phelps and his brother Ricky joined in 1986, the band changed its name to the Kentucky HeadHunters and it was off to the races - at least for a while. The band scored the Top 10 hit "Oh Lonesome Me," along with CMA, ACM and Grammy awards before eventually dropping off the charts. Ricky and Doug then split to form Brother Phelps in 1992.
But this Kentucky derby is starting again, with Doug back in the lineup. The HeadHunters' new effort is still country, but with a more pronounced blues and Southern rock edge. Flashes of Allman Brothers, Lynyrd Skynryd and Charlie Daniels provide a heady musical mix in these dozen delights.
"Grass String Ranch" gets the CD off to a high-voltage start with wailing guitars and full-throated vocals establishing a mood that permeates the album. The saga of "Back To The Sun" receives powerful instrumental and vocal embellishment. The boys display their blues roots in the sultry "Too Much To Lose." "Louisiana CoCo" is Cajun to the core, sparked by delightfully ragged lead vocals and rollicking guitars. Up-front drums and blaring guitars ignite the finale, "Rock On." The musicianship is tight, reflecting blood harmonies and many years experience together. Rock on, HeadHunters. Soundin' good.
-- Gerry Wood.