CD REVIEW: BLACK STONE CHERRY – Kentucky
1 April, 2016
Reviewed by Shane Pinnegar
Black Stone Cherry knew they had to do something different for album #5: all that had come before set them up for a global presence, but they’d had enough of record labels insisting on a radio-friendly single, and had gone as far as they realistically could without compromising their essence.
But being true to what makes you YOU is important to all the best rock n’ roll bands, so after wrapping up touring commitments last year, the Kentucky four-piece went home. Home to Kentucky.
That’s where this album was recorded. It’s what it’s called. And that’s what it sounds like: Home.
There was nothing wrong with their previous albums. Nothing needed fixing. Kentucky signifies a distillation of Black Stone Cherry rather than a change of direction.
This album is Black Stone Cherry at their most natural and true. It’s the sounds of four guys remembering why they started a band. It wasn’t for the money, the fame or their egos. It wasn’t for the girls or the booze. It was for their friendship and the love of music.
Shakin’ The Cage deals with the black dog of depression that so many of us know far too well. Soul Machine marries BSC’s grungey southern rock with a ‘70s funk stomp complete with gloriously retro female backing vocals. Then there’s the big ballads – and when BSC do a big ballad, it’s HUGE. Long Ride, for instance, or Born To Die both burn incandescently whilst tearing your heart out.
Their impassioned take on Edwin Starr classic War sees singer Chris Robinson almost popping a blood vessel while he and Ben Wells rip their guitars up. In their tradition of including a tongue in cheek track is Cheaper To Drink Alone, which bounces along playfully.
Over the course of an album this long their signature sound – whilst great – can get a little samey. Closing track The Rambler’s acoustic guitars and fiddle throw some more-than-welcome light amongst the shade through this beautifully wistful and heart-wrenchingly sad song about a man on the road missing his family. A couple more tracks in this vein – Hangman and Rescue Me would have both benefitted from a reworking, letting the team down by sounding too BSC-by-numbers – and the album would be 10 out of 10.
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