Although they are nominally a country band, the Kentucky Headhunters owe plenty to Southern rock acts from the Allmans to ZZ Top. The Headhunters' formula is straightforward rock-country, somewhere between Hank Jr. and Skynyrd with a healthy dash of early rock 'n' roll, and that has kept them reasonably well-fed since their debut Pickin' on Nashville won CMA Album of the Year in 1990.
Their new release Stompin' Grounds has a sound that is at once guitar-heavy and radio-friendly. "Cowboy Best" is the country equivalent of a power ballad, and "Private Part" sounds like a hit, a medium-tempo piece with lyrics as corny as they are clever ("I'll never show you my private part(s)/You'll never get close to my heart") and a Beatles bridge. Tracks such as "Party Zone" and "Kentucky Wildcat" are infectious good ol' rockers, but "Farmer's Daughter" is a low point, an embarrassing mix of Eddie Cochran and the Dukes of Hazzard: "Got a job in the city, but I can't go to work/Boss man says I got to wear a shirt/Rules, man, rules, I can't be bothered/It's enough keepin' up with the farmer's daughter." Yikes.
Stompin' Grounds has more to offer than most Nashville records. The songs don't aim high, but if you get past some silly lyrics, they've got down-to-earth appeal and a decent dose of guitar firepower. The record doesn't stand up particularly well against comparable recent albums from the other side of the alley: It lacks the reckless intensity of, say, Jason & the Scorchers' Clear Impetuous Morning, or the grizzled intelligence of the Bottle Rockets' The Brooklyn Side. You can do worse, but you can do better, too.