Kentucky is in their blood, many fans hankered after the sound of Black Stone Cherry’s self-titled debut and with their move to Mascot Records BSC were able to return home to where it all started. 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 here wanted the band to return to their roots, the essence of what got them all hooked in the first place.
The first track BSC released from Kentucky was Way of the Future. A heavy beast; it is an amalgamation of sounds from second album Folklore and Superstition and more recent tracks like Fiesta Del Fuego and Change. I really enjoy this heavier down tuned riff and bass driven side that they have developed and it continues with first single In Our Dreams.
Shakin’ My Cage retains the heavy, but opens out to expose Chris Robertson’s vocal. He has a wonderful gift and I love hearing these moments where his voice breaks through the music. BSC is as much his voice as it is the musical sound. The lyrics of this song also take us back to places in America that seem of folklore to us, such as the bayou.
One of the greatest surprises on this album is Soul Machine, it oozes a Motown grove 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.
One of my favourite BSC tracks is In My Blood and Long Ride is very much of this ilk. A lyrically personal song for singer/guitarist Chris with a beautifully fitting, very BSC, guitar solo. He wears his heart on his tattooed sleeve here.
Never ones to shy away from a cover song, BSC have created a fantastic rendition of Edwin Starr’s War with friends Jonas Butler and Ryan Stiles blasting out the brass. Never has a cover song been so fitting of our time. This song is as relevant now as it was back in 1971.
With Hangman and Cheaper to Drink Alone, BSC return to the beastly sound of the first three songs and to the microphone sound used previously on Fiesta Del Fuego. Musically BSC are as tight on Hangman as on Lonely Train with their breaks and Cheaper to Drink Alone is too true a tale, that sees Jon Lawhon’s bass coming to the forefront once again in the bridge.
Merging the BSC sound with home grown choral influences, Rescue Me appears to be another lyrically very personal song for Chris based on his own personal battles and salvation that he has spoken of in recent years. I think it is great that BSC do not shy away from songs like this. Many a fan will tell the band how their songs have helped them through tough times and to know that those you look up to also experience similar emotions will have a great impact. Darkest Secret seems to be of a similar lyrical journey but as the title suggests it is a much darker explanation of the experience and this emanates out of the guitar solo and pounding drums of John Fred Young.
For me Feelin’ Fuzzy is perhaps the least appealing of the songs on Kentucky. That’s not to say it is a bad song and the chorus will certainly work well live, but for me it doesn’t have the same lyrical content as Long Ride or new edge like Soul Machine.
Born to Die is one of the songs that really stand out as being made for where BSC are most at home, live on stage and it was live on stage earlier this year that BSC first introduced us to the song Ramblin’ Man co-written with guitarist Jasin Todd. Ramblin’ Man is tragically beautiful, there is something inextricably special about this song. Starkly different from anything else on Kentucky, but with one of the best lines I’ve ever heard written “Turn the radio up, when your heart breaks down”.
The fans asked and Ben, Chris, Jon and John Fred have delivered beyond our greatest expectations. Chris is quoted as saying “Music is life, life is music” and that is exactly what Kentucky is; music is their life and their life is the music on this album.
The album is released on 1st April 2016 on Mascot Records.
Track listing: 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