Meet Me In Bluesland
The Kentucky Headhunters with Johnnie Johnson
Alligator Records 2015
Review by David Bowling
The Itchy Brothers formed in 1968 and 18 years later transformed into the Kentucky Headhunters. During the next two decades they sold millions of albums and consistently charted on the American country charts. During the past 20 years they have expanded into blues, southern rock, and even some hard rock at times. They have now issued a new album titled Meet Me In Bluesland, but they are not alone.
Johnnie Johnson is a pianist and a member of The Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame. During the early 1950’s he had his own trio and the guitarist was Chuck Berry. After Berry went solo, Johnson stayed on as a member of his band for nearly two decades and continued to gig with Berry until his death in 2005.
During early 2003, Johnson flew to Kentucky to lay down some tracks for the Headhunters new album. Somebody in the control room kept the tapes running and for three days he played on a number of tracks. Those sessions of nearly a dozen years ago have now surfaced as Meet Me In Bluesland.
The album was basically recorded live and Johnson’s presence moves the sound in a decidedly blues and rock & roll direction. The album catches both the band and Johnson at the top of their craft and their union is one that works as his piano work expands the sound of the Kentucky Headhunters, while giving the music an organic feel. This is one of those rare unions where the participants make each other better.
Whether Johnson’s scintillating piano runs on “Fast Train,” the laid back groove of “Sometimes,” or the guitar/piano interaction through a rousing version of the classic “Little Queenie,” the music is energetic and joyful.
The Kentucky Headhunters don’t issue albums very often but they usually contain wonderful surprises. Meet Me In Bluesland carries on their tradition of quality music and is in the running for album of the year.