‘Kentucky’ Is One Of BSC’s Best And Most Important Albums To Date

Courtesy: Mascot Records

The wait is almost over for Black Stone Cherry’s return.  The veteran Kentucky-based blues-rock based band returns this Friday with its sixth full-length studio recording, Family Tree.  Before that album hits stores, this critic is going to take a look back at some of the band’s most recent releases, beginning today with the band’s most recent album, 2016’s Kentucky.  Originally released April 1, 2016 via Mascot records, the album was the band’s debut for Mascot Records.  Its previous four albums up to that point had been released via Roadrunner Records.  It is also one of the band’s most important albums to date because of the growth that it displays throughout the course of its 13-song, 52-minute body.  That growth is evident in arrangements that audibly move away from the band’s familiar southern rock sound in favor of a heavier sound a la Alter Bridge and other similar bands as well as its lyrical themes.  This change is clear right from the album’s outset in ‘The Way Of The Future,’ which will be discussed shortly.  The band’s cover of Edwin Starr’s ‘War’ is another example of that growth.  It will be discussed later.  ‘Feelin’ Fuzzy,’ with its infectious hooks and choruses is yet another example of the growth presented in this record.  Of course, for all of the growth shown throughout the album, there are still some hints of the band’s prior works here such as in the gentle album closer ‘The Rambler,’ ‘Long Ride’ and ‘Cheaper To Drink Alone.’  Those songs will appeal to the band’s more seasoned audiences while the newer (at the time) sound presented throughout will reach an even wider swath of listeners.  Between all of those works and those not noted here, the whole of Kentucky proves to be a record that is not only the band’s most important album to date (at that point), but one of its best albums to date.

Black Stone Cherry’s 2016 album Kentucky is one of the band’s most important and best albums to date.  That is because it proves to have been a creative turning point for the band.  In place of the familiar southern rock fare which audiences had come to know from the band up to that point are harder-edged composition more akin to the likes of Alter Bridge than Lynyrd Skynyrd.  The album’s lyrical themes are deeper, too.  The album’s opener, ‘The Way of the Future’ is one of the examples of those changes that made the album so impressive.  The song’s musical arrangement starts off with a heavy, grinding, almost Black Label Society style riff from guitarist Ben Wells that goes on to form the foundation of the arrangement.  John Fred Young’s solid time keeping in the mid-tempo rocker, coupled with Jon Lawhon’s bass line strengthens that foundation even more.  Front man Chris Robertson’s powerhouse vocal delivery of the song’s socially conscious lyrics puts the finishing touch to the song’s arrangement.  Speaking of those lyrics, they do their own part in making this song so strong.  Robertson sings in the song’s lead verse, “Wake up/Hope ya don’t get shot/Step out/Hope ya don’t get robbed/There’s children killin’ their selves/Who killed whom else for killing ourselves/Watch out/Devil’s gotta get rich/Better stop fallin’ for these tricks/We’re all killing ourselves/Who killed whom else for killing ourselves/It’s the way of the future/There’s no place to hide/You promise to listen/I’ll promise you life/though these perfect politicians/They’re smothered in grease/It’s the way of the future that don’t work for me/Take back control/Fight for your soul.”  This verse leaves little to no question as to its message.  It’s a commentary on the current state of the world.  Given, this is hardly the first time that a band or act of any genre has gone down that road, but even considering that, it’s still a strong statement thanks to the way in which it is worded.  Robertson doesn’t stop here with his scathing indictment, either.  He goes on to sing in the song’s second verse, “Hang on, let’s all get offended/Keep on poisoning the system/There’s just wrong and there’s right/No black and no white/No right in this fight/Throw away everything you’ve been told to believe/Break away from these chains/We’re supposed to be free/Yeah, free.”  Again, little to no doubt is left here.  This is the song’s subject addressing how far the world has fallen from where it once was, with everyone getting offended about everything and refusing to see the shades of grey in life.  It’s a harsh, yet true statement.  The power in the song’s musical arrangement couples with that strong, scathing indictment of society’s descent to make this song one that is certain to resonate with listeners.  Keeping this in mind, it makes sense why it was chosen to open the album.  It is a bold statement about the direction that the band took on this album, and only the first.  The band’s cover of Edwin Starr’s ‘War’ is an equally bold statement about the band’s direction this time out.

Black Stone Cherry’s cover of Edwin Starr’s 1970 hit single ‘War’ is another important addition to Kentucky because it shows just as much in its own way the new direction that the band took on this album.  It perfectly compliments the album’s opener because it, too is a social commentary as well as a protest.  Comparing this version to Starr’s original and even to the re-imagined take that Bone Thugs-N-Harmondy did with Henry Rollins, Flea and Tom Morello, BSC’s take is honestly the best take on the song to come along in quite a while.  That is because it largely stays true to the source material while also giving the song a nice, new update, musically speaking.  The addition of the saxophone and trumpet line to BSC’s arrangement is a nice new touch because of their subtlety.  Robertson’s vocal delivery is also just as strong as Starr’s was in the song’s original take almost five decades ago.  That’s saying a lot.  Add in the fact that the band didn’t try to add any new lyrics to the song in this take – unlike in the aforementioned 1998 super group take included in the Small Soldiers soundtrack – and the song becomes even stronger in its presentation.  The coupling of the song’s updated arrangement that still stays true to its source material and lyrical content that also stays true to the original makes this song one more of the album’s highest points.  It shows once more the band’s growth in this album, and in turn why this album is, two years later, still among Black Stone Cherry’s most important and best albums to date.  Even with all of this in mind, the band’s cover of ‘War’ is not the last of the album’s high points.  ‘Feelin’ Fuzzy’ is one more example of what makes Kentucky such a standout offering from Black Stone Cherry.

‘Feelin’ Fuzzy’ is an important addition to Kentucky in part because of its musical arrangement.  What’s interesting to note here is that a close listen to the arrangement reveals at least some hint of the band’s southern rock roots.  At the same time, the solid, hard rock leanings that are so much more prevalent throughout the album is just as obvious.  What audiences will appreciate here is the balance of the old and new.  It shows that the band didn’t want to alienate its established fan base, but also wanted to once again show the growth that is evidenced throughout the rest of the album’s run.  The band is to be commended for that thought and effort, as it clearly paid off in the song’s arrangement.  Looking at the song’s lyrical content, this song shows just as much growth here.  Robertson sings in the song’s lead verse, “Took a trip and might’ve slipped and fell into a hole/Might be magic/Might be tragic/The way this all unfolds/I’m feelin’ fuzzy/Spinning around/The trees keep laughing while they hit the ground/They know something we don’t/Feelin’ fuzzy/Spinning around.”  He goes on to sing in the song’s second verse, “Took a sip and burned my lips/But love the way you taste/Catch the habit, gotta have it/If we’re gonna escape/Things you’re fearing disappearing/Never seen before/House of reasons fall to pieces/A new king is born.”  Even this critic is at a loss for interpretation here.  On one hand, one would assume this is perhaps a lyrical illustration of the song’s subject going through the effects of drugs and/or alcohol.  That is inferred as Robertson sings through the chorus, “I’m feelin’ fuzzy/Spinning around/The trees keep laughing while they hit the ground/They know something we don’t.”  The seeming Alice in Wonderland reference in the lead verse adds even more interest here.  Between that and the wording in the song’s second verse, it almost seems as the song’s subject is singing about life changing, and is doing so through deep metaphorical language.  Of course this could be a completely incorrect interpretation.  Either way, it is certain to generate plenty of discussion, if it hasn’t already done so since the album’s initial release.  Keeping this in mind, the whole of this song – joined with the whole of the other discussed songs and those not directly noted here – makes Kentucky a “rock” solid (yes, this critic went there) record from Black Stone Cherry and one of the band’s best and most important offerings to date.

Black Stone Cherry’s 2016 album Kentucky is one of the veteran band’s best and most important albums to date.  That is evidenced from start to end of the 13-song, 52-minute record’s body in the record’s hard rock-styled musical arrangements and content heavy lyrical themes.  From the heavy social commentary of ‘The Way of the Future’ and its equally heavy musical arrangement to the equally musically and lyrically heavy cover of ‘War’ that stays largely true to its source material to the extremely heavy and deep content in ‘Feelin’ Fuzzy,’ there is plenty of example of what makes this record stand out.  Add in the depth of ‘The Rambler,’ ‘Long Ride,’ ‘Cheaper To Drink Alone’ and the rest of the album’s offerings, and audiences get in whole here a record that stands tall among its current offerings.  It proves in whole through its overall musical and lyrical content to be – once more – one of Black Stone Cherry’s best and most important albums to date.  It is available now in stores and online.  More information on Kentucky is available online now along with all of Black Stone Cherry’s latest news at:

 

 

 

Website: http://www.blackstonecherry.com

Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/blackstonecherry

Twitter: http://twitter.com/BlkStoneCherry

 

 

 

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