As a young person finding her way in a world of pretty cool music, this album gives me a perfect look at where these guys come from and it’s now I place I’d really love to visit. Black Stone Cherry have been around for a while, forming in 2001 in Kentucky. This is their fifth album and they are paying tribute to their home state and sharing all the experiences and emotions that made them who they are right now. They’ve experienced success in the US, UK and Europe with past releases, with fans enjoying their definite southern US rock sound.
But this latest journey seems like the opportunity they’ve been waiting for to show the world exactly what they’re made of. As a result, they’ve released an album true to their roots, with all the heart and soul of the younger versions of themselves when they were first starting out, combined with time, maturity, freedom and all of life’s little experiences along the way.
I took some time to really listen to and absorb “Kentucky” and initially, I found myself making comparisons to other artists. I’m a young person and there’s so many rock acts and it’s just hard not to, especially when I’m trying to identify and describe all of the things that I like. I think it’s important to get an “innocent” perspective on “Kentucky”. These guys have been around a while and even though some would ask the question of why they haven’t hit the heights of commercial success, some of us just don’t care and would rather give an honest opinion on how their music makes us feel.
So I sat down, pen in hand, making notes as I listened to each and every song and I did find that there was consistency across all the tracks, with a loyalty to the sound they wanted to share. The consistencies were their ability to give us an honest hard rock sound, great heavy guitar riffs, pretty cool lyrics, awesome vocals and the fact that these guys work together like a perfect machine. But there were also a few little surprises along the way, and I think this is what gives “Kentucky” an edge.
The opening track “The Way of the Future” was a good start. Great lyrics, heavy guitar riffs and a really catchy vibe, I also found it had a little bit of quirk with some slight but cool changes of tempo and pitch, just enough to keep you wondering where it was going and how much better it could get. After listening to that track, I already knew that I’d enjoy the rest, I just wasn’t sure to what extent that would be. It got a little bit heavier before it got lighter, which is fine by me, but I did wonder if we were going to get to a point where I felt that these guys had the potential of being commercially-friendly and appealing to a younger audience. I was excited when it did happen.
In our Dreams was a bit heavier than the first track, Shakin’ my Cage was just cool and then we arrived at Soul Machine. This is their money shot. It’s a very appealing track for airplay, it has a catchy chorus, an awesome combination of lead and backing vocals with fun and enjoyable lyrics. I’m guessing it has a bit of a flirtatious and cheeky message and that’s fine, because it has a great sound to match. Still true but just a little bit more playful.
Their cover of “War” also has a huge amount of appeal. It’s a song that younger people are familiar with and it’s an awesome version, so I hope they use this to their advantage. When you’re appealing to a generation who know you mainly through WWE, it’s definitely worth taking a track like this and milking the crap out of it!
And then once they suck us all in completely, there’s songs like Rescue Me and Born To Die – both fairly airplay-friendly but with a heavier sound, banging lyrics that can talk to us, especially during times of confusion, helplessness and loss and a bit of diversity in their design. I’m going to take a moment to make the comparisons now, because it will perfectly describe what I’m trying to say. Rescue Me has this gospel vibe, which feels like it’s been inspired by Queen and then, in my mind anyway, it travels into a combination of Metallica, Nickleback, Bon Jovi and MUSE. Yes, sounds a little mental but it’s my favourite track from “Kentucky”. That, and In Our Dreams, which I am loving more and more every time I listen to it.
I was also excited to learn the news of Black Stone Cherry’s upcoming Australian tour – they’ll perform as special guests for Steel Panther, which just adds another awesome dimension to what these guys are doing. Tour details are available at www.blackstonecherry.com and their Facebook page has regular updates on everything you need to know.
No matter how you feel about “Kentucky”, I think one thing is certain – these guys have shared an incredible journey and work and perform for all the right reasons, giving us music that is reflective, amazing to listen to, heartfelt and honest and you can definitely hear how much they love doing what they do. Chris Robertson summed it up perfectly, “Music is life, life is music. It’s faith, family and music. Those are the things that are quintessential for my life – for all our lives”. Yes Chris, and thank you.