Album review: Black Stone Cherry, ‘Kentucky’

Black Stone Cherry Kentucky coverArtist: Black Stone Cherry
Album: Kentucky
Our Verdict: 8/10
Release date: 1st April
Find it at: Black Stone Cherry Store
Review by: Graeme Blackwell

Kentucky’s southern rock finest break free from the corporate leash on vigorous and energised 5th LP

Black Stone Cherry have very much returned to their roots for their fifth studio album. Titled after their home state and, like their 2005 eponymous debut, recorded at producer Dave Barrick’s studio near the band’s hometown (on some of the same gear if not in the same building), Kentucky finds the BSC crew reinvigorated and delivering a darker, harder and heavier record than any of their previous outings.

Following a 2014 arena tour that saw Black Stone Cherry’s profile at an all time high, the band returned to the USA only to find out that they had been released from their label home at Roadrunner Records. Not ones for taking such potential setbacks lying down, the quartet played a triumphant set on the second stage at last year’s Download festival and, following meetings with several executives, found a new home at Mascot Label Group.

Released from their previous commercial constraints and essentially given free reign by Mascot boss Ed Van Zijl to make the album they wanted to make, Black Stone Cherry then set about recording Kentucky.

From the picture on the album cover of the rural farmhouse where the band first practiced on down, every aspect of Kentucky finds Black Stone Cherry engaging with concepts of home and heritage, but setting them in contemporary global and political contexts.

So the likes of “Soul Machine”, which introduces funky and soulful elements to the BSC sound, including a female backing choir from the band’s hometown, are juxtaposed with likes of “The Way Of The Future”, Kentucky’s opening track and a barbed, greasy groove that takes aim squarely at the kind of slimy politicians that have invoked the ire of many a worldly citizen.

Black Stone Cherry 2016

Also featured is a fiery cover of the Edwin Starr classic “War”, a song that seems more relevant now than ever, and which hasn’t sounded this vital since Starr’s original, or perhaps Bruce Springsteen’s live renditions that he played with such ferocity during the peak of his 80’s popularity.

“Darkest Secret”, which Black Stone Cherry’s John Fred Young describes as being about a person’s unknowable and innermost secrets, sees the band moving squarely in the direction of Black Sabbath, it’s dense riffing and thunderous percussion sitting well alongside earlier and equally ominous album track “Hangman.”

But for all the rejuvenated electrifying intensity, there are also many familiar Black Stone Cherry ingredients mixed in throughout Kentucky’s running time.

“Long Ride” is a soaring and emotional piece that will no doubt provide the more reflective moments during BSC’s future live shows, and “Cheaper To Drink Alone” has all the anthemic qualities that fans of the band have come to know and love. When set alongside instant country classic “The Rambler”, the songs on Kentucky become the most fully realised and free-wheeling collection that Black Stone Cherry have recorded to date.

“Kentucky” will be released on the 1st of April via Mascot Records and is available to pre-order now.

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