Kentucky Linemen: Nashville country, hold the pop

Chris Bieri

In modern country music's world of breakup ballads and beach party anthems, it would take a group of Nashville nonconformists to pen an ode to gun rights entitled "2nd That Amendment."

But it's an outlaw country flag the trio Kentucky Linemen are proud to fly.

Siblings Jon, James and Mitchell Fletcher are making the 4,000-mile trip from country music's capital to Anchorage this week, bringing with them an anti-authoritarian bent. "I don't listen to country radio -- that might be enough said right there," said James Fletcher, the group's guitarist.

Although Fletcher admits Nashville's current formula has been commercially successful, it's not what the group was chasing when they moved to Nashville with the hopes of landing a record deal.

"Once they went pop, we stopped," he said. "We spend our time writing and recording. It may not be what they want to hear, but it's what we want to write and play."

James and his twin brother Jon started playing at age 7 after quickly resolving a backseat debate about instrument preferences. "I said I wanted to play guitar and John said he wanted to play drums," Fletcher said.

Younger brother Mitchell held down the tambourine until he was old enough to play bass, although the instrument still nearly outsized him.

"You can picture a 7- or 8-year-old playing a bass," Fletcher said.

Soon the boys began working more on developing vocal harmonies, which Fletcher said is now the band's signature. The brothers weren't initially interested in country music, much to the chagrin of their father, a fan of traditional country and bluegrass.

"We listened to KISS and ZZ Top," Fletcher said. "Our dad was not a fan of that. At the same time we were listening to rock and roll, he was listening to JD Crowe, Ricky Skaggs and Tony Rice."

Their tendency toward rock, along with a little of their father's country influence, led them to Waylon Jennings and the outlaw movement of the 1970s. They modeled their harmonies after the Gatlin Brothers -- a country family famous for their innate vocal blends.

Although the brothers initially ignored his musical tastes, the band's name is a nod to their dad, who worked as a lineman for the Kentucky Utilities Company.

The group is working on a new album including "2nd That Amendment," which is already posted on their website.

"The Second Amendment has become an issue the last few years," Fletcher said. "We're all gun fans. It's a heck of a song. I think it stands for a lot of what we believe in. We'll play it 13 times if (the audience) wants us to."

By Chris Bieri