It all started 10 years ago when Black Stone Cherry released their first self-titled record and now the Kentucky Quartet are soon to release their fifth. Named after their hometown state, Kentucky, the album is definitely heavier than their last, with meaty riffs that are intended for a live audience. The guys; Chris Robertson (lead vocals/lead guitar), Ben Wells (rhythm guitar), Jon Lawhon (bass guitar) and John Fred Young (drums) went into the creation of this album with a lot more freedom – it’s them, and only them producing the album; just like they did with their very first.
They’ve said themselves that they’re a live band and they write for how they will perform on stage and you can almost see them playing these songs live as you listen. Opening tracks are definitely important for setting the tone of the album and ‘The Way of the Future’ is just excellent. You’ve got grungy melodies, heavy drums and combined with Robertson’s husky voice they take their southern rock ‘n’ roll to another level. Other heavyweights include: ‘In Our Dreams’, ‘Shakin’ My Cage’, ‘Hangman’ and ‘Rescue Me’.
Full of rich melodies and taking a slower, more emotional turn is the fifth track, ‘Long Ride’. It’s quite a beautiful song – lovely vocals and softer riffs – and the lyrics are relatable. Black Stone Cherry also provide their own rendition of Edwin Starr’s Motown classic, ‘War’ and they strikingly combine both soul and rock to create a heavier, yet groovy version. A very thoughtful contribution to the record, considering that in 2016 a song from the 1970s is still relevant.
The record progresses well, heavy songs followed by melodic breakdowns and softer songs, and after building it up again, Kentucky finishes with a ballad titled ‘The Rambler’. It refers to Kentucky as always being home, despite being away and travelling so often.
All in all, Black Stone Cherry have delivered a winner. It has shades of dark and light, their rock ‘n’ roll sound is very versatile and they can pull off other genres with ease, yet they still sound completely themselves. Fans definitely ought to be happy with Kentucky. And as lead vocalist Chris Robertson says, “Music is life, life is music.”
He’s not wrong there.
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Photo: Rob Fenn