Review: The Kentucky Headhunters with Johnnie Johnson – Meet Me In Bluesland

Posted on: Sunday, Jun 21, 2015

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The Kentucky Headhunters with Johnnie Johnson – Meet Me In Bluesland

(Alligator Records: ALCD 4965)

Here’s a most enjoyable coupling of one of America’s long established Southern rock bands, The Kentucky Headhunters, with the late, great blues and rock ‘n’ roll pianist, Johnnie Johnson – most famous for being part of many of Chuck Berry’s iconic early recordings, with his fierce two-fisted playing.

This uptempo treat was recorded at the band’s studio in Glasgow, Kentucky, back in 2003, just two years before Johnnie’s passing – but he and the band had been friends for well over ten years at that point, having met at the Grammy Awards in 1992. The band took the recordings to Alligator Records boss Bruce Iglauer who liked the musical bonding between them and Johnson and the result is “Meet Me In Bluesland”.

The band comprise of Richard Young (rhythm guitar and vocals), Doug Phelps (rhythm guitar and vocals), Greg Martin (lead guitar and backing vocals), Anthony Kenny (bass and backing vocals) and Fred Young (drums and backing vocals) – with, of course, Johnnie Johnson and superb piano and vocals.

The twelve cuts span rock ‘n’ roll of course, some blues and a touch of country, and blast off with the rockin’ “Stumblin'”, with it’s crunchy guitars and Johnson’s tinking ivories; it’s followed by a dip into the blues for “Walking With The Wolf” – even though it rides on an Elmore James slide motif. The ‘cap is doffed’ to Johnnie Johnson’s former boss on a romp through his well-known hit “Little Queenie”, with Johnson again laying down his trademark piano playing.

The title cut, “Meet Me In Bluesland”, is a slow blues number, with nice Richard Young vocal and some fine lead guitar from Greg Martin and lashing of top quality rolling piano from Johnnie Johnson; it’s followed by the strutting blues of “King Rooster”, then the almost-country of “Shufflin’ Back To Memphis”. The rollicking instrumental “Fast Train” is another treat, with both lovely piano and guitar work.

This joyous release ends in glorious fashion, with the slide-driven stormer “Superman Blues” – ending a recommended release, and what a treat that these tracks have seen the light of day.

GRAHAME RHODES

www.alligator.com

www.kentuckyheadhunters.com

www.johnniejohnson.com

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