Hard-Rockin' Ranch Hands

Three years on since the release of their last album, Stompin' Ground, the Kentucky Headhunters return to make their bid for the Southern Rock crown. Tossing aside the self-imposed structure of Ground, a country-radio-oriented failure, these good ol' boys (32 years as a band!) return to their hard-rocking, easy-going jam-band roots.

Lead guitarist Greg Martin shines on the Skynyrd-esque opener, "Grass String Ranch," named after a family farm. Things get even funkier on the delightful, ZZ Top-inspired "Louisiana CoCo" (RealAudio excerpt).

The band's country roots, more physical than musical, show through on the album, which the Headhunters recorded on their own in Glasgow (Kentucky, that is). Naturally enough, their bucolic perspective is captured on "Country Life," and in the dry, backwoods humor of "Dry-Land Fish" (RealAudio excerpt): "If a Jeanie gave me a bottle, there'd be three things I'd wish/ Corn, greens and taters and dry-land fish." (Locals — and readers of the New York Times "On Language" column — know that dry-land fish are mushrooms.)

And lest anyone accuse the Hunters of being misogynistic, they include a fair share of ballads befitting Southern gentlemen. "Jessico" is a richly melodic remembrance ("Jessico, don't you know/ You're the stars in our eyes") and "Once in a While" (RealAudio excerpt) is an especially nice power chord-infused love song, sung sweetly by Doug Phelps.