There’s nothing quite like finding out if you can still write reviews after a couple of years off, by challenging yourself, not to just any band, oh no – but Black Stone Cherry. By rights, I should have been in to these guys from the very beginning. They have a fine line in big rocking tracks, sometimes with a bit of a country twinge; shut up! You know how I feel about country…case in point, the sublime Wentworth Kersey…well bluegrass is my preference but whatever – semantics – and hell yes always to anything with even a hint of southern to it, so you see why they should be on constant rotation for me.
Black Stone Cherry have been a band that I’ve always enjoyed what I’ve heard, but never thought to spend any time just immersed in their music. It’s always been the odd track here and there, and it was only a few months ago that I actually listened to ‘Between the Devil and the deep blue sea‘, only 5 years late to the party, nothing really 😉 but since then they’ve just been regular visitors to my headphones.
Earlier this week, I felt a particular need to listen to them again and spotted they had a new album out and went to spotify to check it out…
To be completely honest, it isn’t the strongest start – it’s not a bad thing, both ‘The Way of the Future’ and ‘In Our Dreams’ are good songs, but probably not quite opening hooks, the first songs that grabbed me were almost certainly ‘Soul Machine’ and ‘Long Ride’ but both for very different reasons.
‘Soul Machine’ really does show the amazing range of Chris Robertson’s voice and the backing singer and his vocal style really raises the track to proper R&B music. You can honestly sense they’re singing from the absolute core of their beings, and about stuff that’s tangible, stuff that you can feel, real soul music – not how I would describe what is considered to be R&B these days. Oh and it’s definitely got that could easily melt knicker elastic at 20 paces sort of vibe – enough said.
‘Long Ride’ packs an emotional wallop that’s for sure. Didn’t think I had those pesky emotions anymore, but listening to this track brought them out of hiding. It’s a love song in this amazingly deep and beautiful way. It’s not twee, it’s very reflective of living a life with someone, and being grateful to them for being there, through everything, and it is truly effective. There’s just so much emotional depth to it and it’s hard to really describe how it made me feel – there were tears (whilst I was on the bus home!), and I’m sure that won’t be the last time that happens listening to this beauty.
After ‘Long Ride’, you need a pick me up, and yes, they really deliver. It could only take a band like Black Stone Cherry to actually have the balls to cover such an out and out classic. Edwin Starr’s ‘War’. Yes, Chris’s voice is amazing, but it was the music that grabbed me about this track. John Fred Young absolutely hammers the drums on this one, and my ear has this thing for a solid rhythm section (explains why I’m in to a wide variety of heavy, rhythmic music really) but the drums, along with what sounds like a full marching band behind them is nothing short of awesome. To do justice to such a classic song, there was no way they could approach this half assed (not that they would), and not only did they not do that, they threw everything at it. I would love to see this performed live.
‘Cheaper to drink alone’ is very obviously a single in the making, if such things are even released now. It’s gloriously raucous, warning you of the downfalls of gold diggers, and is just generally a great big rock track, with all the essential ingredients – wine (Bourbon), women and song. ‘The Rambler’ is prime to go crossover – I can see this doing very well with country fans and rock fans alike. It’s quite a sad song, crossing the years, dwelling on decisions made and life on the road – it is in every sense of the word a country song, quite a sad vocal line, beautiful guitar work, a huge story unfolding in the lyrics – if this isn’t made in to a video for CMT I will be surprised; it could open them up to a new audience.
Whilst I’ve only looked at the songs that instantly grabbed me, the rest of the album is pretty much a perfect rock album for me – it has been on constant rotation for the past few days. As I mentioned earlier, everything they are is just exactly what I like. They’re not breaking previous form, even with the country epic of ‘The Rambler’, but I love the cross over of soul, rock, country and maybe even a little bit more metal with ‘The Lion’. Already a fan? You will love this. There is a confidence in this album which I guess was always there in the other albums I’ve heard, but it just seems more assured somehow. Black Stone Cherry are all on top form and really give it their all. I am very much looking forward to seeing them live in London in November (my birthday month is nothing short of epic this year!), let’s see if they manage to perform ‘War’ live!
‘Kentucky’ is definitely heading straight in to the top ten albums of the year, no question. It’s rare that an album connects with me so quickly; the last album that did was Gazelle Twin’s ‘Unflesh’ – both very different and connecting in strange and beautiful ways, but I guess that’s a sign of a great album; something that sticks and won’t let go. If you’re a rock fan who perhaps hasn’t given Black Stone Cherry their due so far (like I had until just recently) now is the time to perhaps rectify this. A proper classic rock album, and no mistake.
Kate Turgoose 10/10