Black Stone Cherry – Kentucky


Album

Kentucky

Label

Mascot Label Group

Year

2016

Genre

For Fans Of

Shinedown – Texas Hippie Coalition – Hellyeah

Summary

Ol’ fashioned Southern boys keeping it deep, down & dirty.

Rating

65 / 100

It’s right around the 1:20 mark in the track ‘Soul Machine’, a rollicking number and funk-fusion jam, when lead vocalist and guitarist Chris Robertson cheekily croons: “If you can rock/Then you can ride.” And from such a simple statement, Robertson manages to effortlessly communicate the core ethos of Edmonton (that’s of the US variety) rockers, Black Stone Cherry. Along with his fellow partners in crime/rock (Ben Wells on rhythm guitar, Jon Lawhon on bass and John Fred Young hitting the skins), Robertson is a born and bred Southern boy and ‘Kentucky’, the group’s fifth record and first for new label Mascot Label Group, is in many ways the audible distillation of that notorious, Southern hospitality. Black Stone Cherry are the hard working men with the necessarily big pick-up trucks, with the ‘Don’t Tread On Me’ banners, that populate the down-town saloon where girls drink for free and the jukebox screams loud all night.

So in keeping with this sentiment, the tone of ‘Kentucky’ is of course a very familiar one. However, on repeated listens, there are some subtle layers and nuanced instrumentation that begin to peel off and worm around inside your head. With their patented blend of hard-rock riffs, massive stadium drums and radio-ready croons, Black Stone Cherry are definitely playing in the FM radio big leagues with notable heavy hitters like Nickelback, Shinedown and others. ‘Kentucky’ features a wide cross-section of different rock and metal flavours, with scores of ready-made anthems, waiting to catch the attention of the next MMA loving, Tapout wearing, Monster Energy guzzling, WWE fan. Opener ‘The Way Of The Future’ kicks right into gear, with thick riffs and contemplative lyricism around the state of current affairs. Singles ‘In Our Dreams’ (co-written with producer Bob Marlette) and ‘Soul Machine’ keep it playful and catchy to bring the pace up, while ‘Rescue Me’ and ‘Hangman’ keep it heavy with metal licks and meaty bass.

However, ‘Kentucky’ does inevitably suffer from some misfires. At 13 tracks in length, the record wrangles in some filler, and can be roughly segmented into three acts: where emotional tension and aggression bounce off each other in the first and third acts, while dragging the equivalent of a beer belly through the second act. ‘Long Ride’ is a plodding mid-tempo ballad, replete with a cheesy, Bon Jovi solo, ‘Cheaper To Drink Alone’ bogs down in laments for a high maintenance, East Coast girl and the cover rendition of the counter-culture, Motown classic track ‘War’ feels misplaced, tired and unnecessary, adding to the record’s bloated feeling.

Conclusion

In the press packet for this release, Young reflects on how the members of Black Stone Cherry jammed as kids in the ‘Practice House’, a 1940’s bungalow (featured on the record cover), and honed in on their sound. “We’d go there and sit and smoke cigarettes and jam on Nirvana and AC/DC, Skynyrd songs and Pantera, try to play Led Zeppelin songs,” Young recalls. “The closest neighbour was, like, more than a mile away, so we could make as much noise as we wanted, any time we wanted. It was a great way to become a band.” And in many ways, this is what sets Black Stone Cherry apart from all the other stock standard, radio-rock filler bands that pollute the airwaves. It’s obvious that these dudes live and breathe their music, where their sense of sincerity and ultimately freedom, permeates across ‘Kentucky’. It might not be everyone’s preferred shot of rot-gut, but after all, that’s what freedom is all about.

Tracklisting

1. The Way Of The Future

2. In Our Dreams

3. Shakin’ My Cage

4. Soul Machine

5. Long Ride

6. War

7. Hangman

8. Cheaper To Drink Alone

9. Rescue Me

10. Feelin’ Fuzzy

11. Darkest Secret

12. Born To Die

13. The Rambler

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