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The Kentucky HeadHunters

Dixie Lullabies – 2011 (Red Dirt)

Reviewed by Brian Baker

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CDs by The Kentucky HeadHunters

If you think of the Kentucky HeadHunters as that scruffy band of Southern country rockers that shambled out of the Bluegrass State over two decades ago and unleashed their Grammy/ACM/CMA-winning, multimillion-selling album "Pickin' on Nashville" and had a few sporadic hits after that, you don't know the half of it.

The HeadHunters actually assembled in 1968 as Itchy Brother; they released one single and nearly signed with Led Zeppelin's Swan Song Records before John Bonham's death shuttered the label. They broke up in 1982 and reformed in 1985 as the Kentucky HeadHunters, recorded the demo that became "Pickin' on Nashville" and hit the platinum lottery. After that, the HeadHunters endured numerous line-up changes and, although they dropped several well-received albums, a good deal less success than they had enjoyed with their debut.

Coming nearly a decade after 2003's "Soul," the band's last album comprised of mostly originals, "Dixie Originals" represents more than a comeback album for the HeadHunters. Recorded at the band's rustic Practice House in the dead ass of winter, "Dixie Lullabies" is hotter than jalapeno body wash and an incredible return to the HeadHunters' late '80s/early '90s form. From the Georgia Satellites-tinged Dixie Lullaby to the syncopated Boone's Farm Boogie, a rewrite of ZZ Top's LaGrange, to the Derek and the Southern Dominos blues/pop of Great Acoustics, "Dixie Lullabies" is stacked like a crooked gambler's best deck. The Stones and Faces get referenced on the shuffling girl-meets-guitarist workout of Les Paul Standard, early ZZ Top and Johnny Winter inform the swaggering Little Miss Blues Breaker and the boys snarl and snap like classic Kim Simmonds on (the not classic) Ain't That a Shame. "Dixie Lullabies" is exactly what the Kentucky Headhunters' audience loves and what any fan of Southern rock lined up to hear back in the day.