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Kentucky Headhunters get stuck after finding their inner Skynyrds

Galaxy Theatre, Santa Ana, Cal., Sept. 23, 1999

By Dan MacIntosh

SANTA ANA, CA - At one point during their set, Kentucky Headhunters guitarist Richard Young described the group's most recent recording effort as an exploration of their Southern rock roots.

Most explorers move on to something else, once they've found what they were looking for. Kentucky Headhunters, on the other hand, started searching for their inner-Skynyrds and then somehow got stuck there.

"Party Zone," sums up best what the Headhunters are all about. And for the most part, this is the group's primary zone of operation. Midway through, though, singer Doug Phelps, with his Robert Plant-like good looks and leather pants, sang a new ballad,"Baby, You're Too Much To Lose." It was a nice gentle touch. Still, such softer moments were few and far between.

More representative of the band's repertoire were barnburners like "Farmer's Daughter" or the bluesy "My Daddy Was A Milkman."

The set reached its absolute low point when drummer Fred Young took center stage for a cliched and utterly useless drum solo. Drum solos for jazz artists are acceptable. In rock they are tolerated. But in country, they're simply anathema.

As later-day Southern rockers, Kentucky Headhunters aren't bad. But one has the overwhelming suspicion that these guys can be so much more. Phelps is an expressive singer. Greg Martin has the chops of a fine guitarist. And when these guys allow room for a little harmony singing, it's indeed a sweet sound. But their slavish dedication to the boogie made all of these worthy attributes secondary, at best.

Nevertheless, the group shined with their modern day updating of "Oh Lonesome Me" and a rave through Chuck Berry's "Little Queenie."

But by and large, this night was a case of looking at a multi-dimensional from only one side. One hopes this talented group thinks out a better concert strategy, because it does no good to hunt heads, if you're not going to use them.

©Country Standard Time • Jeffrey B. Remz, editor & publisher •
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