BLACK STONE CHERRY – Kentucky [Deluxe Edition] (2016)
Sometimes you need to look back in order to move forward. While BLACK STONE CHERRY have had increasing chart success – their last album hit number five on the UK charts and number 22 in the US – the band felt a lack of creative control over their recordings. To that end, they left Roadrunner Records and signed to Mascot to release tomorrow, April 1, “Kentucky” their brand new album.
It’s not strange that Black Stone Cherry returned to Mascot Records – a label specialized in blues-oriented rock – as it’s not strange the band titled the new album “Kentucky”, their home, the US State where they born as a band.
And that’s because “Kentucky” is some kind of a comeback to their original sound, that Southern Rock inflected.
In a deliberate return to their roots, it was recorded at producer David Barrick’s studio near their home town, just like their self-titled 2005 debut. But this is a heavy, dark record, owing little to the rangy swing of their Allmans and Skynyrd heritage. Instead, it’s modern hard rock for the hard world they find around them.
The isolated old farmhouse where Black Stone Cherry first practiced is proudly framed on the album sleeve. But this symbol of Southern home comfort is bathed in grey. This cover artwork gives you a clear idea of what to find inside.
The first track ‘Way of the Future’ is a heavy beast, an amalgamation of sounds from the band’s first and second album, a bass driven track that continues with the the dark follower ‘In Our Dreams’. Next, ‘Shakin’ My Cage’ retains the heavy, but opens out to expose Chris Robertson’s vocal.
One of the greatest surprises on this album is ‘Soul Machine’, it oozes a Soul / Blues groove and they utilise some people from their local church for the chorus, as well as a brass section, which gives this song an edge not heard on a BSC song before. It not only takes their music back to Kentucky but it raises the bar beyond anything I could have imagined from this band. This is undoubtedly the stand out track on the album for me.
Also very interesting is the cover of Edwin Starr’s ‘War’ with friends Jonas Butler and Ryan Stiles blasting out the brass but also Kentucky musicians ading a special touch. It’s a rampaging, from-the-gut version . Robertson sings, ‘Who wants to die?’ with a gravelly soul holler, while his reliably concise and inventive lead guitar surges and whines.
With ‘Hangman’ and ‘Cheaper to Drink Alone’, BSC return to the beastly sound of the first three songs, then ‘Rescue Me’ the melodic commercial side of the band with home grown choral influences and a really cool solo panned in stereo.
‘Feelin’ Fuzzy’ indeed adds a lot of fuzz to its bluesy foundation, then ‘Born To Die’ delivers a huge groove again and a melodic chorus
And ‘The Rambler’ is something else, an instant American classic that Kris Kristofferson or Willie Nelson would be proud to own. It’s a dying troubadour’s apology to the daughter he barely knows, the result of a night when ‘I played a pretty southern girl right out of her dress.’ This acoustic heartbreaker sets off the preceding thunder perfectly.
Black Stone Cherry always has been, for me, one of the few modern hard rock bands that worth a listen, and their new album ‘Kentucky’ confirm this. It’s their more ‘classic rock’ record, one that traditional hard rock fans should check out.
Whilst their last two albums sought to bring forward more American radio friendly songs, it is Europe and the UK in particular that has helped the band climb the rock stairway, and the fans there wanted the band to return to their roots, the essence of what got them all hooked in the first place.
Well, ‘Kentucky’ does it, still sounding modern but firmly inspired by a classic rock heart. Catch them this Summer touring with Europe and Whitesnake.
01 – The Way Of The Future
02 – In Our Dreams
03 – Shakin’ My Cage
04 – Soul Machine
05 – Long Ride
06 – War
07 – Hangman
08 – Cheaper To Drink Alone
09 – Rescue Me
10 – Feelin’ Fuzzy
11 – Darkest Secret
12 – Born To Die
13 – The Rambler
14 – I Am The Lion (Bonus Track)
15 – Evil (Bonus Track)
Chris Robertson – vocals/guitar
Ben Wells – guitar/vocals
Jon Lawhon – bass/vocals
John Fred Young – drums