Just like a Hollywood movie that is described as “an epic years in the making”, tonight’s gig could be described as “an epic decades in the making”. Decades after plans to tour the UK and Europe for the first time were scuppered by the Gulf war, The Kentucky Headhunters (the band that Billboard magazine described as “the great American rock n’ roll band”) finally made it overseas, and it’s all thanks to badgering from Black Stone Cherry drummer John Fred Young that his father,uncle, and cohorts took the plunge and crossed the Atlantic for their first ever UK dates. Kentucky Headhunters rhythm guitarist and vocalist Richard Young’s fear of flying meant that any such dates would be highly unlikely, until he finally caved under immense pressure from “his kid, the big gorilla that plays drums in Black Stone Cherry”, and climbed on a plane for the first time in “34 years”. There’s a pint for Young junior behind the bar to thank him for cajoling his dad to get on that plane, as this was a night to remember.
Now, it wasn’t left to just the headliners to make this memorable. Bad Touch pulled off a storming set, as they have every time I have seen them. I first saw these boys way back in 2014 and I have not missed one Glasgow show since. I will be honest, if they were supporting Beyoncé I would be there… then, after their set, we would be found in the pub! I will argue time and again about how much talent this island of ours has. The amount of young, talented, and driven bands never ceases to amaze me, and as much as I will be front and centre for all the big tours, the smaller ones excite me no less (and they are a good bit cheaper). Bad touch really are the cream of the crop of upcoming bands with their style of groove-laden riffs and slightly dodgy shirts. Tonight, they were fired up after a week on a tour that they have openly admitted was the best of their career. Vocalist, Stevie raved about how good The Kentucky Headhunters were, and how they were taken good care of. You could say, yeah that’s the usual bullshit… big up the headliner, but you could feel the emotion in his voice, especially when he told us the band bought them a bottle of bourbon, as it was the last night of the tour, and add the fact that Stevie was in the crowd for the full set, and the rest of the boys were not far away, just shows they meant it. All this added up to probably the best set I have seen them play to date. The last time I saw Bad Touch was last year, and it looks like they have been busy, as the new album is complete and due out in October. Tonight we were treated to three new songs, and if you are a Bad Touch fan (or just generally like good fucking music), you are in for a treat. The first of these tracks was “Made To Break”, and it came crashing out of the PA like a Led Zeppelin monster. These were followed by “Waiting For this” and “99%”. Both were excellent. The only problem with new tracks is old ones need to be dropped, and it has been far too long since I have heard the brilliant “Good On Me”, but I cannot complain when you get the likes of “Waste My Time”, “Motherload” and closing the set with “Down”, you had to be happy. The set list may be varying, but this band just gets tighter with each gig. The first time I saw them, they were much more serious, maybe trying just that bit too hard, but the talent was there for all to see. Now they are a well-oiled beast, and they have a ball on that stage, from the moment they set foot on it, till they turn their backs and leave. I hope that they picked up a whole host of new fans on this tour, and maybe a certain father could have a word with his little boy for the next full on Black Stone Cherry tour. If you haven’t heard of Bad Touch, get on YouTube, buy the albums, then go see them, and I can assure you after the first gig, the hooks will be in you just as deep as they are in me. All I can ask for now is a full-on headline tour to promote the album.
The Kentucky Headhunters play southern blues rock, but don’t think of them alongside Skynyrd etc. They might be southern by the grace of God, but their sound is filtered through the waters of British and Irish blues rock. Legends such as Eric Clapton, John Mayall, Rory Gallagher, and Frankie Miller (described as “a great Scotsman” by Young). All play a major part in The Headhunters sound. Mix this with some boogie and southern good times, and you get the picture.
‘Big Boss Man’ gets the party started, and the blues staple is a perfect vehicle to showcase how tight the band are. Nods between Young and his fellow Headhunters, brother Fred Young on the drums, Greg Martin on lead guitar, and Doug Phelps on bass and lead vocals, highlight the second nature that decades of playing together brings. If playing their eighth gig in as many days has had any adverse effect on the band, then they weren’t letting it show. Phelps joked that the organisers were “trying to kill us old farts
” with a schedule to knock a younger band back on their heels. The set is a mix of originals like ‘Wishin’ Well’ from the ‘Electric Barnyard’ album, cover versions that included an incredible cover of ‘House of The Rising Sun’, which led in to a few jokey verses of ‘Stairway To Heaven’, and songs from the most recent album ‘Meet Me In Bluesland’, which was recorded with legendary piano player Johnnie Johnson. Before cranking up ‘Stumblin’’,’Shufflin’ Back To Memphis’, and ‘Walking With The Wolf’, Richard Young tells an incredible tale of how The Kentucky Headhunters came to be at a Grammy pre-show party, and Johnson was sitting alone in the corner.The guys went over and introduced themselves and a great friendship was formed, resulting in a stunning album, which came to light after Johnson’s sad death. An album of celebration that blows the cobwebs off when it’s blasted out. Old hands at this thing called rock n’ roll, The Kentucky Headhunters make it look easy, none more so than Fred Young, who cuts quite a figure behind the drumkit borrowed from Bad Touch. Playing shirtless, wearing red braces and a coonskin hat, he keeps it simple whilst battering the living hell out of the kit. It’s easy to see where his nephew John Fred got his showman skills from. Style wise, he holds his left stick similar to the giants of drumming Charlie Watts and Buddy Rich, and his solo was anything but an excuse to hit the bar. He swapped his own hat for a novelty Scottish “Jimmy” hat, complete with ginger hair, for a rousing version of ‘The Ballad Of Davy Crockett’, which saw him leave his kit to come up front. George, from Bad Touch, came out to cover for him in a sign of the newly formed friendship between both bands. Indeed, Phelps took time out to thank Bad Touch for sharing their equipment on the tour and how much fun that the tour has been. When the last song, a cover of ‘Don’t Let Me Down’, leads into a few choruses of ‘Hey Jude’, the whole Bad Touch line up took to the stage for a mass singalong. Backs are slapped, drinks are clinked together, and hugs a-plenty went around. A great way to end a memorable evening, and indeed the tour. According to the band, The Kentucky Headhunters have a new album planned for later this year, and they will be back again… how good would it be for them to open for Black Stone Cherry on their Winter tour? We can but hope.