You know On Safari is going to be an interesting album when you realize the two covers are Charlie Daniels’ “Way Down Yonder” and Alice Cooper’s “Caught in a Dream,” and both of them fit in perfectly with the 10 original songs. Also, on some songs the band sounds similar to Lynyrd Skynyrd and on others, particularly “Big Time,” they sound like The Rolling Stones, while “God Loves a Rolling Stone” is pure outlaw country. Yet something always clearly rings through to identify this band as The Kentucky Headhunters.
But that is what, after more than 20 years and 12 albums, the band’s devoted fans have come to expect from them. They can play anything and sound like themselves.
Country wisdom can be found in the lyrics of songs like “God Loves a Rolling Stone” and the story-song “Crazy Jim.” TKH also brings in their own experiences to tunes such as “Deep South Blues Again,” “Beaver Creek Mansion,” and “Lowdown Memphis Town Blues.”
“B.C.M.,” in particular, seems especially poignant with its warm memories of growing up on a farm in Kentucky when you learn that the Young bothers, Fred and Richard, who formed the band with their cousin Greg Martin decades ago, lost their 93-year-old father during the week they had set aside for rehearsal, as they explain in the fascinating official video they made for the album. Since most of the band members are related, this affected them all and adds a level of emotional intensity to many of the songs.
Yet this is still a rocking, optimistic album. “Jukebox Full of Blues” is pure fun with its roll call of rock and roll ladies, and this reviewer’s favorite track, “Rainbow Shine,” has a great message about always looking for the next good thing and is wonderfully sung with a bouncy early ’60s blues-rock feel.
This is an album of just solid tunes with great vocals, guitar and other instrumental work, without a lot of frills. The band recorded the entire release in three days, and it has a freshness and intimacy that shines through.
On Safari is a great musical journey. If you are not already a fan of The Kentucky Headhunters, you may be after you share this trip with them.