(By Pat ‘Riot’ Whitaker, Lead Journalist/Writer, RiffRelevant.com)
It is no big secret that marijuana cultivation and the State of Kentucky in the U.S. have a symbiotic relationship established quite long ago.
You would think with that fact’s validity, the state would be overflowing with Stoner Rock type bands everywhere but sadly, that’s not really the case. Sure, we have some killer acts here and there within my home state, but not many come to mind right off the top of my head.
The Hebron, KY Smoke Healer first formed in 2014, released their first effort, a self-titled full-length in 2015, and now they are back. The return came back in November when the quintet issued their six-song “Highway Meets The Sky” EP.
It recently sparked my attention and now that I have partaken of it rather thoroughly, I’m here to break it down a bit for you. A two word term to sum it up rather nicely would be “the chronic”, because Dan Ryan (Vocals), Chris “Chuzz McBuzz” Brown (Guitar), Jake Stone (Guitar), Brooke Smith (Bass), and Mike Hamm (Drums, Percussion) are clearly sonic shit-kickers.
This crew mashes an intoxicating blend of blues, southern rock, boogie, and metal into an undeniably Seventies-influenced sound ‘n style. This reality hits you like a sledgehammer out of the haze, with the metal-infused chuggery of opening cut “Fungustus Villa“. Driving, pounding rhythms and drums blast away as the backbone here, while the guitar emits its massive electrified riffery.
Choosing not to monkey with what works, that formula is applied to other incredible numbers here. Ones like the metallic cruncher “No More” are a tightly wound flurry of riffs, rhythms, and drum kit rampage. Or there’s the simmering, slow burn of bluesy cuts such as “Medicine Man” and “Death Proof (Hell On Wheels)“.
Clearly, one of the stronger aspects for the band and this EP are the vocals. They’re gritty with just enough get-up and gravel in their underbelly to suit each song right nicely. It’s always good to see Kentucky being represented on the map of the heavy music underground and Smoke Healer are as good an ambassador as any.
With “Highway Meets The Sky“, they neither negate nor compromise the legitimacy of their Southern standing. Instead, they toss caution to the wind, unleash the boogie and blues badassery they’re so capable of, and it works with fiercely fantastic results.