Kentucky Headhunters On Safari – a dedication to James Howard Young and a Christmas Must


If you love southern rock, blues and Americana music or just plain love the Kentucky Headhunters consider adding their 12th album On Safari to your list for Santa.  The album is an eclectic mix of music that speaks of their southern roots and the connection to the man the album is dedicated to, James Howard Young.  The Headhunters provided me with a copy of On Safari to review for my blog, and I must say, I love it.

Like most things, I think it all begins with the roots and for Richard and Fred Young, their musical roots start with their late father James Howard Young.  Drummer, Fred Young said about his father, “I think what a wonderful life I’ve been blessed with because of my parents.”

James Howard Young introduced his sons Richard and Fred to music early on and he was an integral part the other Headhunters, Greg Martin (who is a cousin to Richard and Fred) and Doug Phelps as well.

“Dad was very much into history and art and taught school almost 40 years, “Fred Young said.

“He put on lots of plays and made sure no child was left out of the spotlight. He played piano very well and was into the Steven Foster, Al Jolson, southern style music and he played and sang those types of songs all his life.”

The love of music passed down from James Howard Young to his children and this album was started when Mr. Young fell ill . “There was so much going on at the time we were booked for the studio,” Fred said, “Mine and Richard’s father James Howard took ill and passed away sudden.  We were so stressed we planned to cancel the studio work, but we decided dad might have wanted us to go on “

Fred added, “I don’t know how we got through it, but I believe his spirit was with us during those sessions.  When I listen back … I don’t know, but the stuff had to be coming from above.”

Fred added how the name of the album came about.  “Richard named the album On Safari  because daddy never traveled but always talked and dreamed of all these wonderful places and now he can see all the places.  We finally decided to fly so we could see the places daddy dreamed of seeing overseas.  Richard’s son, John Fred and the band Black Stone Cherry  helped make it possible.”

The obvious connection to their lives is clear in On Safari.  The album features 10 songs penned by the band, as well as a cover of Charlie Daniels’ “Way Down Yonder” and Alice Cooper’s “Caught In A Dream.” A Plowboy Records/Practice House Records joint venture, the album’s inspiration comes from their family and the rural way of life the Young’s experienced growing up.

In fact, the first song on the album “Beaver Creek Mansion” refers to the home place, the farm, where Gwen and James Howard lived.  The song was written by Mark Orr when he was with The Kentucky Headhunters and offers his observation of the happenings going on around Richard and Fred’s family farm.

The second song, “Deep South Blues Again” reminded me of the previous blues album and this song was my own personal favorite.  The song “The Hunter” they said was one started before and never finished until now.  The completed song has wonderful lyrics and the song “Crazy Jim” (my husband Keith’s favorite) is based on a man they actually knew growing up.  The song shares how special people can be and how important it is that we are kind and understanding of those different from us, they may be visiting angels here on Earth. We have heard” Crazy Jim” when attending Headhunter concerts and were excited to see this song on this album.

The rest of the songs, “Big Time”, “ Lowdown Memphis Town Blues”, “ Rainbow Shine”, “Way Down Yonder”, “ Jukebox Full Of Blues”, “God Loves A Rolling Stone” and “Governors Cup” round out the album. This is a great album to listen to anytime, but one of the best to listen to while on the road!

“God Loves A Rolling Stone” is another personal favorite of mine.  No matter what your favorite may be this album brings all the energy and down home southern rock that the Kentucky Headhunters brings to the table.  We even caught a glimpse of their last album which featured Johnny Johnson in the lyrics of one song.  Johnson influenced the band and was a band member with Chuck Barry.

I hope you find a copy of On Safari under your tree and when you play it, think about James Howard Young and his legacy of love and music that weaves through this album.

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