In an age where bands and artists are seemingly always trying to latch onto the latest gimmick or hot new trend Black Stone Cherry feel like a bit of a throwback. This is especially the case on their brand new and fifth studio album Kentucky. The band have embraced their roots harder than ever and have produced a mighty fine rock record to boot.
The album’s opening track The Way Of The Future really sets the tone for what is to follow. The fuzzy guitars which bring the song slowly, growling to life are a thing of beauty, and the political slant on the lyrics is something of a feature on the album and shows the band’s increasing maturity in regard to their song writing.
In Our Dreams initially shapes as though it will be a mellower affair but those thoughts are soon banished as some seriously meaty guitars crunch in from nowhere. BSC have always had a gift for writing mega choruses and that shines through here, I absolutely love the hook on this track. Following song Shakin My Cage is a little more and restrained through the verses but again just explodes into one hell of a crescendo for one of those big ass rock choruses.
Normally when to comes to picking favourite songs from albums I’m about as decisive as your girlfriend picking a restaurant for dinner but straight from the first play I fell in love with Soul Machine. I mean the kind of love you feel when your favourite takeaway throws in some extras because you’re a regular, REAL love. The Hendrix reference at the start of the track is a great touch, the brass and the backing singers are fantastic and the guitar solo is nothing short of exceptional. BSC love a back to basics rock track but this track shows that they are more capable of upping the ante when required. This tune will sound incredible live, I promise you. (Lyric video included at the bottom of this review)
Long Ride is Kentucky’s first slower moment and is a classic BSC ballad. It’s really well put together and the chorus is built to be sung along to. If you’re a fan of the band you’ll know exactly what kind of track I’m talking about. It isn’t quite Soul Machine but the band’s cover of the Edwin Starr classic War is incredibly good fun. You couldn’t get more of a protest song but hearing the band rock it up with the aid of that brass section again put a huge smile on my face. On paper it has no right to work but somehow it really does, it’s definitely one of the album’s highlights.
Hangman sees the record move into heavier territory, with its grungy intro and monstrous riffs. Again the guitar work is nothing short of fantastic and its gravelly tone which just rumbles from your speakers is the stuff dreams are made of. Cheaper To Drink Alone is classic BSC and is just really solid. There’s nothing bad and nothing exceptional, just a real solid album track.
Rescue Me has a brief dalliance with Queen as it gets underway before a real Alter Bridge-esque thundering riff takes over. Once more it’s really solid fare. Feelin’ Fuzzy is a serious grower. (Apologies for the slightly lazy cliché) It’s one of those real ‘head-nodders.’ It’s solid drumbeat and thumping hook just gets your head going whether you like it or not. It gets better and better with every listen and by the time I sat down to put pen to proverbial paper I was surprised by how much I liked this tune.
As the record hits the home stretch you might be forgiven for thinking that the band might let up a bit but that couldn’t be further from the truth. Darkest Secret sees the band reach for the ‘heavy’ button one more time as they smash through soaring guitar solos, big choruses and moments of pure frantic chaos. Penultimate tune Born To Die would make a fantastic single, it’s just got that feel. It’s another song which just leapt out at me and I can’t help but sing along every time that I hear it, and I suspect that I won’t be alone. It’s another one of those songs that is impossible to listen to quietly.
Closing track The Rambler really is a beautiful piece of work. I saw the band play this live on their recent UK tour and it’s a brilliant way to finish. It’s really stripped back and that means that the lyrics just hit you straight between the eyes, I mean how emotive is this for a chorus?
“A million miles from Kentucky but I’ll always be around, so turn the radio up when your heart breaks down.”
Like I said, it’s just a great way to finish.
I loved the idea behind this record so I’m so glad to be able to say that it really is a fantastic listen. It goes back to the band’s roots and takes influence from everything from Blues to Bluegrass and beyond.
Kentucky has got a bit of everything and lives up to expectations. It rocks, soothes and makes you smile in equal measure and that’s exactly what rock music should be about.
Black Stone Cherry are a band at the top of their game and long may it continue.