Who knew that the May 13, 1990 performance by the Kentucky Headhunters at Cleveland’s Agora Ballroom would emerge as one of the best live albums of the year — nearly two decades later.
Their roots extend back to 1968 and the rock band Itchy Brother. By 1986 they had evolved into the Kentucky Headhunters. Over the years they have released seven studio albums and twenty singles plus received three Country Music Association Awards and a 1990 Grammy for Best Country Vocal Performance by A Duo or Group.
The Kentucky Headhunters have always been characterized as a country band but Authorized Bootleg – Live / Agora Ballroom – Cleveland, Ohio May 13, 1990 finds them very close to the southern rock style of Lynyrd Skynyrd and the Allman Brothers. On a few songs they cross the line completely and — let me say that when they rock — they really rock.
The concert begins with Hank Williams’ “Honky Tonk Blues” which sets the tone for what is to follow. The lyrics and vocals may be country but the music is pure southern-boogie rock. Don Gibson’s “Oh Lonesome Me” follows this same style and their fusion of these two types of music is some of the best I have heard.
By the time they get to Doug Sahm’s “She’s About A Mover” they are in full-rock mode. Larry Williams’ “Dizzy Miss Lizzy” follows with a hard rocking version. The old blues classic, “Crossroads,” is similar to Cream's rendition, proving that lead guitarist Greg Martin and drummer Fred Young are two of the best musicians you have probably never heard of.
The Kentucky Headhunters have always been a somewhat eclectic band. I remember watching them perform “The Ballad Of Davy Crockett” on a major television awards show. On this live album, they close the show with “Spirit In The Sky,” which is as unusual as it is inspired.
If you are partial to good southern-style rock ‘n’ roll then this is an album for you. The Kentucky Headhunters are still on the road performing and if this old concert is any indication they are well worth seeing.