Strong Roots, Growth Make ‘Family Tree’ Another Successful Album From Black Stone Cherry

Courtesy: Mascot Records

The wait is officially over.  Black Stone Cherry’s new album, Family Tree is finally here, and it is another interesting offering from the Edmonton, Kentucky-based band, both musically and lyrically.  That is because on this, the band’s sixth full-length studio recording, the veteran Edmonton, KY-based band has returned to the blues rock sound that made it a household name throughout the better part of its life.  That should make those left uncomfortable by the band’s fifth album Kentucky (its Mascot Records debut) happy.  Of course that is not to discount Kentucky, as it was its own impressive effort especially being a risk by the band.  As a matter of fact, it was a nice change of pace from the band, and hopefully not the only chance that the band will ever take.  Getting back on the topic at hand, this album, even with its familiar musical and lyrical themes, takes its own risks that pay off in their own right.  ‘Carry Me On Down The Road’ is one of those risks.  It will be discussed shortly.  ‘My Last Breath,’ another chance taken by the band this time out that pays off in its own right.  It will be discussed later.  It’s not the last of the risks taken this time out.  ‘James Brown,’ which comes later in the album’s run, is another risk that pays off.  Between these songs and the album’s other more familiar works, the album in whole proves to have plenty for audiences to appreciate.  Keeping that in mind, Family Tree proves to be another solid, enjoyable effort from Black Stone Cherry.

Black Stone Cherry’s sixth full-length studio recording (its second album and third overall recording for Mascot Records) is another solid, enjoyable offering for the veteran southern rock outfit.  That is because for all of the familiarity that the album offers audiences, it also doesn’t fail to take its own risks once again, as is evidenced early on in ‘Carry Me On Down The Road.’  This song, lyrically, is its own familiar territory for audiences across the board.  It’s one of those songs about a rambler; someone who spends so much of his/her life on the road.  The thing with those songs is that they are so often overly sappy pieces thanks to their musical arrangements.  Black Stone Cherry didn’t go that route here.  Instead, the band opted for a more positive, light-hearted approach a la The Allman Brothers Band’s ‘Ramblin’ Man,’ only a little heavier.  That positive musical approach makes the song’s lyrical theme, which is itself quite similar to that song and so many others, that much more enjoyable.  That familiarity comes as front man Chris Robertson sings, “I was born for leaving/It’s just what I do/And my feet don’t sleep/’Cause they stay on the move/There’s no deceivin’/Ain’t no master plan/I’m a keep, keep keeping on/I’m a travelin’ man/Hold on/I got wheels that can’t be stopped/I gotta ramble, ramble on/Roll on/Peaceful feelin’ in my soul/Carry me on down that road.”  He goes on to sing in the song’s second verse, “Said listen people/I’ve got something to say/I’ve been around the world/It took 42 days/And I met 10,000/And I ran 10,000 miles/To be with ya’ll this evening…oh lord/I got wheels that can’t be stopped/I gotta ramble, ramble on/Oh lord, peaceful feelin’ in my soul/Carry me on down that road.”  Again, there is a lot of similarity here both lyrically and musically between this song and the noted Allman Brothers Band song.  The fact that this song uses the prior work as inspiration rather than blatantly ripping it off makes it plenty enjoyable.  That it opts for that more light-hearted approach instead of the sappier approach that it easily could have taken adds even more to its enjoyment.  Keeping all of this in mind, this upbeat blues rock opus about a traveling man, a ramblin’ man, proves to be its own enjoyable entry this time out.  It’s a risk because the band opted to go happy instead of sappy, and one that paid off because of that.  It’s just one of the risks that paid off in this album.  ‘My Last Breath’ is another risk that paid off for the band this time out.

‘My Last Breath’ comes immediately after ‘Carry Me On Down The Road’ in the album’s sequence.  Musically speaking, its arrangement is another ballad, which in itself is nothing new for Black Stone Cherry.  The band has included at least one ballad in each of its past five records.  What makes it stand out here is that, as with ‘Carry Me On Down The Road,’ is that while it does boast a certain emotional depth (thanks to its musical arrangement), that depth isn’t as over the top as in the band’s previous ballads.  It’s another nice change of pace even with its familiarity.  This song’s arrangement is centered on a gentle, flowing organ line that when coupled with Robertson’s vocal delivery conjures thoughts of Ben Harper (believe it or not).  That influence sticks throughout the course of the song.  The addition of the choral element to the song gives it a little gospel feel that only strengthens the song that much more.  Between those elements and the slight bluesy Derek Trucks Band influence that is also audible here, the song’s musical arrangement here makes this ballad a risk from the band that paid off in its own right.  Considering that the song pays homage to the subject’s loved ones – from a wife/gf to family in general — that controlled emotion here makes the risk taken all the more of a payoff.  It’s just one more of the risks that paid off here.  The funky blues rock arrangement of ‘James Brown’ is another risk that paid off.

The arrangement at the center of ‘James Brown’ is, as noted, a rock arrangement, but also boasts a certain funk influence in its whole, too.  It goes without saying that it’s instantly infectious, and in this critic’s ears, deserves to be one of this album’s singles.  Its lyrical content rests atop that musical content, proving even more the song’s strength.  Robertson sings in the song’s lead verse, “Good time to write a rhyme to reach ya/It’s a new procedure/Need a soul to preach to/give me a soul to preach to/Don’t want but you know I need it/’Cause I only feed instead of tryin’ to beat it/I end up defeated/Well lemme talk at ya/Hot damn, you know just like magic/So hip that it’s tragic/Heartbreaker/Got me a-ramblin’/Like I’ve been time travelin’/You got me just like James Brown.”  From here, he goes on to note that the woman being addressed here is “the 8th wonder” and he’s “the hunter”, basically excited over this woman.  It’s an interesting song that is heightened even more through that playful, funky arrangement.  When the two elements are joined together, they make this composition a work that was well worth the risk as they definitely stand out as another sign of the band’s growth.  Keeping that in mind, it’s just one more way in which Family Tree shows its strength and appeal, but hardly the last.  ‘Southern Fried Saturday Night’ stands easily on its own merits with its southern rock arrangement and fun-filled lyrical content paying homage to all things southern.  In all honesty, this song is just as much a fit on mainstream rock radio as on today’s modern country playlists.  On another level, the Joe Satriani-esque break included in the arrangement in ‘Bad Habit’ adds to its interest, as it’s another interesting change of pace that shows even more the band’s growth.  There’s even a real quick Peter Gunn style riff included about two-minutes into ‘Burnin’ along with a subtle 80s hair rock style riff that adds to its interest.  These elements, and so many more throughout the record go a long way, collectively, toward showing why Family Tree is another successful entry from Black Stone Cherry.  All things considered, they make Family Tree a record that will impress the band’s long-time fans just as much as its new audiences and deserves a spot on any critic’s list of the year’s top new rock records.

It goes without saying after hearing Family Tree all the way through that it deserves a spot on any critic’s list of the year’s top new rock records.  That is proven in the southern rock roots and new growth exhibited throughout the record’s 13-song, 52-minute run time.  That growth is exhibited just as much through ‘Carry Me On Down The Road,’ ‘My Last Breath’ and ‘James Brown’ as through ‘Bad Habit’ and ‘Burnin.’’  The band’s southern rock roots are clearly exhibited throughout the rest of the record.  The combination of that growth and connection to the past proves Family Tree to be another successful entry from start to finish, and in turn a record that will appeal to audiences across the board.  Family Tree is available now in stores and online.  More information on Family Tree 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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Five Finger Death Punch Debuts Second Single From ‘And Justice For None’

Courtesy: MSO PR

Five Finger Death Punch is giving audiences a preview of its latest album.

The band debuted this week its new single ‘Sham Pain.’  The song is the second from the band’s new album And Justice For None, its seventh full-length studio recording. The album’s lead single ‘Fake‘ debuted last week and has since generated just under 1 million streams.

Guitarist Zoltan Bathory explained the song is — lyrically speaking — a snapshot of everything that the band has been through in the past year.

“‘Sham Pain’ is a lyrical snapshot of probably the biggest, yet most chaotic year, of this band’s career,” Bathory said.  “Everyone has a different way of dealing with the moments when life hands them lemons…some complain and some make lemonade.  Us, we pour gasoline on it and then hit it with a rocket launcher.  Sarcasm has always been our ‘Art of War’ (if from naming the band ‘Five Finger Death Punch’ you haven’t figured it out yet), but just wait until you see the video we made for this song.”

That video in question will debut soon.  The band has provided a picture from the video’s shoot.  It is noted below.

Courtesy: MSO PR

‘Gone Away’ (which is a cover of Offspring’s 1997 hit single and is included in its 2017 hits collection A Decade of Destruction), another of the band’s current singles, has received over 27 million streams domestically and is charting at #2 on iTunes Active Rock chart.  It has also topped iTunes’ rock and metal charts worldwide.  The song’s official and lyric video are streaming online now.

Five Finger Death Punch launches its new live schedule in support of And Justice For None today in Tempe, Arizona.  The schedule runs through September 9 in Cleveland, Ohio.  Its dates are listed below.  Tickets and VIP packages can be purchased here.

Catch Five Finger Death Punch on tour in the following cities:

Previously Announced 5FDP Spring Festival Dates
4/20/18 – KUPD’s UFEST – Tempe, AZ
4/21/18 – Las Rageous – Las Vegas, NV
4/27/18 – Welcome To Rockville – Jacksonville, FL
4/28/18 – Fort Rock Fest – Sunrise, FL
5/5/18 – Carolina Rebellion – Concord, NC

Previously Announced 5FDP / Shinedown Spring US Tour Dates
5/6/18 – Bridgestone Arena – Nashville, TN
5/8/18 – Rupp Arena – Lexington, KY
5/10/18 – BOK Center – Tulsa, OK
5/11/18 – Westfair Amphitheatre – Council Bluffs, IA
5/12/18 – Eagles Ballroom – Milwaukee, WI *
5/14/18 – Salem Civic Center – Salem, VA
5/16/18 – Legacy Arena – Birmingham, AL
5/17/18 – Ford Center– Evansville, IN
5/18/18 – Mark of the Quad – Moline, IL
5/20/18 – Alerus Center – Grand Forks, ND
5/30/18 – Casper Events Center – Casper, WY

Five Finger Death Punch

5/29/18 – Red Rocks Amphitheater – Morrison, CO

6/1/18 – Deadwood Mountain Grand Hotel – Deadwood, SD

6/2/18 – KQRC Rockfest – Kansas City, MO

6/14-6/16– Montebello Rockfest – Montebello, SC

Five Finger Death Punch + Breaking Benjamin Summer Tour Dates:

* – 5fdp & Bad Wolves only/ ** – 5fdp, Breaking Benjamin & Bad Wolves only
7/16/18 – White River Amphitheatre – Seattle, WA **
7/18/18 – Spokane Arena – Spokane, WA **
7/20/18 – Taco Bell Arena – Boise, ID
7/21/18 – USANA Amphitheatre – Salt Lake City, UT

7/24/18 – Shoreline Amphitheatre – San Francisco, CA
7/25/18 – Mattress Firm Amphitheatre – San Diego, CA
7/27/18 – FivePoint Amphitheater – Irvine, CA
7/29/18 – Isleta Amphitheater – Albuquerque, NM **
8/1/18 – Austin360 Amphitheater – Austin, TX
8/3/18 – Cynthia Woods Mitchell Pavilion – Houston, TX **
8/4/18 – Starplex Pavilion – Dallas, TX
8/6/18 – BankPlus Amphitheater at Snowden Grove – Southaven, MS
8/7/18 – Hollywood Casino Amphitheatre – St. Louis, MO
8/9/18 – Heritage Park Amphitheatre – Simpsonville, SC
8/11/18 – MIDFLORIDA Credit Union Amphitheatre – Tampa, FL
8/12/18 – Verizon Amphitheatre – Atlanta, GA
8/14/18 – KeyBank Pavilion – Pittsburgh, PA
8/15/18 – BB&T Pavilion – Camden, NJ
8/17/18 – The Pavilion at Montage Mountain – Scranton, PA
8/18/18 – Xfinity Center – Boston, MA
8/20/18 – Budweiser Stage – Toronto, ON
8/22/18 – Lakeview Amphitheater – Syracuse, NY **
8/24/18 – Jiffy Lube Live – Bristow, VA
8/25/18 – PNC Bank Arts Center – Holmdel, NJ **
8/28/18 – Riverbend Music Center – Cincinnati, OH
8/29/18 – Hollywood Casino Amphitheatre – Chicago, IL
8/31/18 – Ruoff Home Mortgage Music Center – Indianapolis, IN **
9/1/18 – DTE Energy Music Theatre – Detroit, MI
9/3/18 – Darien Lake Amphitheater – Darien Center, NY
9/6/18 – Northwell Health at Jones Beach Theater – Wantagh, NY **
9/7/18 – XFINITY Theatre – Hartford, CT
9/9/18 – Blossom Music Center – Cleveland, OH **

More information on Five Finger Death Punch’s new single, tour schedule and more is available online now at:

 

Website: http://www.fivefingerdeathpunch.com

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

Twitter: http://twitter.com/FFDP

 

To keep up with the latest sports and entertainment news and reviews, go online to http://www.facebook.com/philspicks and “Like” it.  Fans can always keep up with the latest sports and entertainment news and reviews in the Phil’s Picks blog at https://philspicks.wordpress.com.

 

‘Black To Blues’ Is A Rocking Tribute To The Roots Of The Blues

Courtesy: Mascot Records

The wait for Black Stone Cherry’s new album Family Tree is now at only one day.  The much-anticipated 13-song album will be the band’s second full-length studio recording for Mascot Records and its third overall recording for the label.  The second of the band’s recordings came last year in the form of the six-song blues covers EP Black To Blues.  It is the focus of today’s review, as anticipation builds for Family Tree.  Those who are familiar with Black Stone Cherry’s body of work know that this veteran Kentucky-based rock band’s music is very deeply rooted in the blues.  So it comes as no surprise that the band released this collection.  The only real surprise is that it is only a six-song record instead of a full-length EP.  The record’s song choices (and their associated artists) are, collectively speaking, one of its key high points.  They will be discussed shortly.  The songs’ arrangements are important to the EP’s whole, too.  The historical significance of the EP rounds out its most important elements.  Each element is important in its own right to the EP’s presentation.  All things considered, they make Black To Blues another welcome offering from Black Stone Cherry, and one that will hopefully one day be followed by a more pure blues cover from the band

Black Stone Cherry’s 2017 EP Black To Blues is an interesting new compilation of songs from the veteran Kentucky-based blues rock band.  That is not because it is a collection of blues covers, but in part because of the songs selected for the 6-song EP.  The songs are classics crafted by some of the greatest names in blues history – Willie Dixon, Muddy Waters, Albert King, and the creative team of Don Nix, Donald Dunn and Leon Russell.

‘Built For Comfort,’ originally composed by blues legend Willie Dixon, is considered by critics and audiences alike to be one of Dixon’s best compositions.  Along with Muddy Waters (a.k.a. McKinley Morganfield), Dixon is one of two of the key figures in the formation of the Chicago blues.

Speaking of Muddy Waters, his song ‘Champagne and Reefer’ fittingly follows Dixon’s Built For Comfort.’  What many might not know of Waters’ works is that a large number were in fact written and composed by Dixon.  This song however, was a rarity because it was written and composed entirely by Waters.  Just as interesting to note of the original is it was included in what would go on to become Waters’ final album before his death in 1983, King Bee.  Considering this, it’s fitting that such a strong composition would be included in Waters’ final musical statement.

‘Born Under A Bad Sign,’ another of the compilation’s key entries, is its own well-known work.  Inducted into the Blues Hall Of Fame in 1983, the song has since gone on to be considered by most to be King’s signature composition.  No doubt that is thanks in part to William Bell’s lyrics, which have proven to have just as much widespread appeal as its musical arrangement which has reached rock and r&b fans just as much as blues fans.  It’s just one more example of why the songs included in this recording are so critical to the EP’s overall presentation.  ‘Hoochie Coochie Man’ and ‘I Want To Be Loved,’ two more of Dixon’s hits prove to be just as entertaining here as the songs more directly noted.  Much the same can be said of ‘Palace of the King,’ originally composed by the writing team of Don Nix, Donald Dunn and Leon Russell.  That song was made famous by Freddie King, who is considered one of the “Three Kings” of the Blues.  When those songs are considered and researched along with the songs more fully discussed here, it becomes clear why the songs featured in this record are so critical to its presentation.  As important as they are, they are not, collectively speaking, the EP’s only key element.  The songs’ arrangements are just as important to discuss as the songs and their artists.

It goes without saying here that the band has given these blues standards quite the new identity with its arrangements.  Case in point is the hard rock/blues arrangement of Willie Dixon’s ‘Built For Comfort.’  Dixon’s original composition is an upbeat, easily danceable work.  BSC’s rendition is, by comparison far more familiar to its fans, stylistically than it might be to fans of Dixon’s original.  That’s not to say that BSC’s take is a bad take.  It just gives the song a new identity for a new generation; an identity that is still just as appealing in its own right as Dixon’s original.  Much the same can be said of BSC’s take on Muddy Waters’ ‘Champagne and Reefer.’  The band’s take of this blues standard is a complete re-imagining of Waters’ original, yet proves in its heavy, blues-soaked rock sound, to still be entertaining in its own right.  The band’s re-working of ‘Palace of the King’ changes things up here by actually largely staying true to its source material while still giving the song a solid update.  ‘Hoochie Coochie Man’ proves to be one of the record’s most standout additions thanks to the band sticking to the original song’s 12-bar blues format.  One could even go so far as to argue that this take is even better than the original thanks to the hard rock element added to that link back to Willie Dixon’s original.  That standout offering is followed by another equally solid arrangement in the band’s take of ‘Born Under A Bad Sign,’ which stays perhaps closest to its source material of any of this record’s songs.  To say that it’s infectious would be an understatement with its blues rock arrangement; an arrangement which even way back when was credited with making the Albert King’s original such a widespread hit.  The band impresses one more time in the EP’s closer with its take of Wilie Dixon’s ‘I Want To Be Loved,’ which was originally made famous by his longtime friend Muddy Waters.  It is a little amped up in comparison to that original, but again, it largely stays true to the source material, right down to the horns.  The result of that devotion to the original is a work that is not only a solid closer for this record, but another song sure to be a hit among audiences of all ages.  It should be clear by now why the arrangements of the songs in this record are so pivotal to its presentation.  Some stay true to their source material while others completely re-imagine the songs.  Even in those re-imaginings, the songs still prove to be solid blues rock pieces that stay true to BSC’s own blues rock style.  Keeping that in mind, all of the arrangements presented here prove enjoyable in one way or another throughout, thus making the record in whole that much more enjoyable.  Of course this still is not the last of the EP’s most important elements.  Its historical value is also of note.

Black to Blues’ historical value is so important to discuss in examining this EP because of the doors that the EP can open through its songs and their arrangements.  One could easily argue that there’s no importance to this record, but the reality is that without this record, younger audiences who might otherwise pay no attention at all to the history and importance of blues itself, get a good start.  That door is opened through discussions on the songs featured here, their source material and their artists.  Being that this record is only a six-song record, it greatly limits the artists and songs, but maybe in generating new interest through those songs, those same younger listeners will hopefully be moved to discover even more of the many artists and songs that make the blues’ history so rich.  Keeping this in mind, the historical value of Black To Blues cannot be ignored in considering the EP’s overall presentation.  It is just as critical as the EPs songs (and artists) and the songs’ arrangements.  That being the case, the whole of the noted elements makes Black To Blues another solid effort from Black Stone Cherry; a recording that leaves listeners hoping one day the band will release a pure blues covers record instead of a collection of amped up covers.  Until or unless that happens, the works presented here will have to suffice.  That’s not an entirely bad thing, either.  Black to Blues is available now in stores and online.  More information on the EP is available online now along with all of Black Stone Cherry’s latest news and more at:

 

 

 

Website: http://ww.blackstonecherry.com

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

Twitter: http://twitter.com/BlkStoneCherry

 

 

 

To keep up with the latest sports and entertainment reviews and news, go online to http://www.facebook.com/philspicks and “Like” it.  Fans can always keep up with the latest sports and entertainment reviews and news in the Phil’s Picks blog at https://philspicks.wordpress.com.

ESPN To Air Special ‘SportsCenter’ Broadcast Tonight To Coincide With NFL Season Schedule Announcement

Courtesy: ESPN

The National Football League will announce the schedule for its 2018-’19 season tonight, and in anticipation of the announcement, ESPN will air a special two-hour edition of SportsCenter tonight.

SportsCenter Special2018 NFL Schedule Release will air tonight starting at 8 p.m. ET.  the program will be simulcast live on the ESPN App.  Trey Wingo will anchor tonight’s broadcast, and will be joined by analyst Darren Woodson and ESPN NFL Insiders Louis Riddick and Adam Schefter for additional commentary.

Due to tonight’s special broadcast, SportsCenter SpecialMel & Todd’s Mock Draft has been moved from its original time slot tonight to 6:30 p.m. Friday on ESPN2.  Wendi Nix will anchor that broadcast.  Riddick and Schefter will both appear during the broadcast, too.

Just last week, ESPN announced its 2018-’19 NFL pre-season broadcast schedule, which begins the New York Jets on the road against the Washington Redskins August 16 at 8 p.m. on ESPN.  It will also broadcast the Ravens at the Colts August 20 at 8 p.m. on ESPN.  Both games will be simulcast in Spanish on ESPN Deportes.

ESPN’s 2018 MNF Preseason Schedule:

Date

Time (ET)

Game

Network(s)

Thu, Aug. 16

8 p.m.

New York Jets at Washington Redskins

ESPN, ESPN Deportes

Mon, Aug. 20

8 p.m.

Baltimore Ravens at Indianapolis Colts

ESPN, ESPN Deportes

More information on ESPN’s NFL coverage is available online now along with all of the latest NFL headlines at:

 

Website: http://www.espn.com/nfl

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

Twitter: http://twitter.com/ESPNNFL

 

To keep up with the latest sports and entertainment news and entertainment, go online to http://www.facebook.com/philspicks and “Like” it. Fans can always keep up with the latest sports and entertainment news and reviews in the Phil’s Picks blog at https://philspicks.wordpress.com.

Autograph Teases ‘Every Generation’ Video; Announces New Live Dates

Courtesy: EMP Label Group

Veteran rock band Autograph debuts the video for its latest single on Friday, and in anticipation, the band has released a teaser video for the full video.

The full-length video for ‘Every Generation‘ premieres Friday.  So the band is building anticipation through a teaser video that is streaming online now here.  The single is taken from Autograph’s latest album, Get Off Your Ass, which was released last year via EMP Label Group.

The full-length ‘Every Generation’ video will stream on EMP Label Group’s YouTube channel and its official Facebook page.

The premiere of its new video isn’t Autograph’s only big news.  The band also recently announced a new string of live dates in support of Get Off Your Ass.  The band’s current schedule launches April 26 in New Bedford, Massachusetts and runs through October 28 in West Hollywood, California, with some time off between each date.  The band’s current live schedule is noted below.

AUTOGRAPH TOUR DATES:

4/26/2018 New Bedford, MA Live in The Vault – Greasy Luck Brewpub
4/27/2018 Southbridge, MA Cannery Music Hall
4/28/2018 Jim Thorpe, PA Penn’s Peak – (with KIX)
5/3/2018 Pacific Junction, IA “Rally In The Hills Festival” at Loess-Hills Harley Davidson
5/19/2018 Big Flats, NY Tags (with Queensryche and Great White)
6/2/2018 Beaumont, CA Beaumont Cherry Festival – (with Great White + more)
6/23/2018 Littleton, CO Freedom Fest at Platte River – (with Nightranger, Skid Row, Quiet Riot, Slaugher, Kix, & more!)
7/11/2018 Cadott, WI Rock Fest
8/11/2018 St. Charles, IL The Arcada Theatre – (with Slaughter)
9/8/2018 Hinckley, MN Rocktember VI Music Festival at Grand Casino Hinckley (with Lynch Mob, Queensryche & more!)
9/15/2018 Versailles, OH BMI Speedway – (with Quiet Riot)
10/28/2018 West Hollywood, CA The Whisky a GoGo

More information on Autograph’s live schedule is available online now along with more information on its new video, latest news and more at:

 

Website: http://www.autographband.com

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

Twitter: http://twitter.com/autographband

 

To keep up with the latest sports and entertainment news and reviews, go online to http://www.facebook.com/philspicks and “Like” it.  Fans can always keep up with the latest sports and entertainment news and reviews in the Phil’s Picks blog at https://philspicks.wordpress.com.

 

‘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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Blackberry Smoke Proves Again To Be An Elite Southern Rock, Country Act Again In Its Latest LP

Courtesy: 3 Legged Records

Veteran southern rock band Blackberry Smoke is one of the leading names within the southern rock community today.  Over the course of now 18 years, the Atlanta, Georgia-based band has earned that title by growing and changing with each of its now six full-length studio recordings.  That growth and change has come at the band’s own pace, and has resulted in each of the band’s albums being its own special and impressive offering.  Its latest album, Find A Light is no exception to that rule.  Released April 6 – only a couple of weeks ago – this 13-song, 53-minute record will easily appeal to not only Blackberry Smoke’s fans but fans of ZZ Top, Lynyrd Skynyrd, Bob Dylan, Reckless Kelly and other similar acts, at least musically.  Lyrically, it will just as easily reach a wider range of audiences. This is proven right from the album’s outset in the form of ‘Flesh and Bone.’  This song will be discussed shortly.  ‘I’ve Got This Song,’ which comes later in the album’s run, does just as much to show the significance of this album.  It will be discussed later.  ‘Nobody Gives A Damn’ does its own part to show why Find A Light is another impressive offering from Blackberry Smoke, yet is hardly the last of the songs included in this album that proves its enjoyment.  The seeming social commentary presented in ‘Lord Strike Me Dead,’ the old school southern rock vibe and optimistic message of ‘I’ll Keep Ramblin’’ and the combined gentle, flowing arrangement and simple message of ‘Mother Mountain’ – the album’s closer – adds even more to the album’s enjoyment.  Between these works, the pieces more directly noted here and even those not discussed, it goes without saying that the whole of the album’s songs makes Find A Light some of the band’s best work to date, an album that shines bright among this year’s rock and country fields.

Blackberry Smoke’s sixth full-length studio recording Find A Light is a shining new effort from the veteran southern rock outfit.  That is because it takes the successes of its past albums and, rather than rehashing them, uses them to grow and change once again.  The result is an album that is one of Blackberry Smoke’s best offerings to date.  This is proven right from the album’s outset in the form of ‘Flesh And Bone.’  Musically speaking, this bluesy arrangement easily lends itself to comparisons to works from ZZ Top and Jeff Beck among others.  Of course that is just this critic’s own interpretation.  Other listeners might just as easily make other comparisons.  Lyrically speaking, this song is just as certain to keep listeners engaged as its musical arrangement is to keep them entertained and engaged.  Front man Charlie Starr sings here, “Tie my two hands behind me/Close my ears and my eyes/I just might need some shelter/From these things I desire/Right in front of me/All that I wanna see/Oh, help me baby/Is this how it’s gotta be/Will it all be the end of me/Everything’s so good and so bad/Temptation all you can stand/Everything so right and so wrong/What can I do/I’m just flesh and bone.”  This lead verse seems to be someone saying he is trying to be the best that he can be despite being “just flesh and bone.”  It’s an interesting statement, and is just one of the song’s verses sure to engage listeners.  He goes on to sing in the song’s second verse, “It’s a curse or a blessing/Sometimes I can’t tell/Is it just like they teach us/That we’ll send you to hell/What will it do to me/The first little bit is free/Oh, help me baby/Set me/Watch me fall/I want a taste of it all/Everything’s so good and so bad/Temptation all you can stand/Everything’s so right and so wrong/What can I do/I’m just flesh and bone.”  Even more so here, the song’s subject is posing some deep existential questions; questions that so many people ask yet generally aren’t moved to discuss because of their depth.  Overall, it seems with these verses that Starr is highlighting one of the key matters of being human – questioning everything around us.  What’s interesting about it is the manner in which he does this.  He poses the topic in a fashion that makes it both interesting and accessible to the everyday listener.  The song’s musical arrangement serves to make add to that interest and accessibility.  When this is considered alongside the depth of the song’s lyrical content, the whole of these two elements makes easy to see why this song is so critical to the album’s whole.  It shows right from the albums’ outset the band’s continued growth both musically and lyrically.  That growth continues to be shown in plenty of different ways from here, keeping the album fresh and interesting.  This is proven later in the album in the form of the moving, contemplative ‘I’ve Got This Song.’

In regards to its musical arrangement, ‘I’ve Got This Song’ wastes no time lending itself to comparisons to works from so many country music acts what with the twang of its guitar and subtle violin line.  Starr’s vocal delivery added to that mix strengthens that pure country music comparison.  In all honesty, one could take that whole and compare it to songs from the likes of Alan Jackson, Tim McGraw, and other similar famed country names.  That in itself makes this song interesting in its own right.  The song’s lyrical content offers its own share of interest.  Starr sings in melancholy fashion here, “These days/The good days/Are fewer and father between/Sometimes, the hard time’s a shadow on my sky blue dream/I don’t have much if you look through the eyes of the world/Open me up and you might find just one shining pearl/I’ve got this song/A story to tell about the good times and bad times/heaven and hell/Well it might not be pretty/Or have much to say/But it’s all I’ve got left at the end of the day/The one thing they can’t take away/I’ve got this song.”  This is a really moving statement.  It comes across as stressing the importance of appreciating the little things that we have in life.  This is inferred as Starr sings, “It’s all I’ve got left at the end of the day/The one thing they can’t take away/I’ve got this song.”  It’s a statement that could so easily inspire so many listeners.  He goes on to sing in the song’s second verse, “I’ve got a short list of good friends I can count on to answer my call/And the long list of bad things I might not be proud of at all/Show me a man who hasn’t yet learned how to fall/There is a man who doesn’t know much yet at all/I’ve got this song/A story to tell about the good times and bad times/Heaven and Hell/It might not be pretty/or have much to say/But it’s all that I got left at the end of the day/The one thing they can’t take away/I’ve got this song.”  Again, the message of appreciating life’s little things is here.  In this case it is heightened by Starr singing about “a man who hasn’t yet learned how to fall.”  He is saying here that yes, he’s got bad things in his life, but he’s learned from them and learned, in turn, to appreciate the simple things.  It’s just such a moving message.  When that message is coupled with the song’s equally heartfelt musical arrangement, the whole of those two elements makes this song another of this album’s strongest points.  That strength, in turn, serves to show in its own way why FAL is another success for Blackberry Smoke.  Even with this in mind, it is not the last of the album’s strong points.  ‘Nobody Gives A Damn’ is one more of the album’s strong points.

‘Nobody Gives A Damn’ comes late in FAL’s run.  This song proves to be another of the album’s high points in part through its musical arrangement, which wastes no time lending itself to comparisons with Lynyrd Skynyrd’s best works.  To a lesser extent, one could even argue that this arrangement could be compared to Reckless Kelly’s best compositions, too.  It’s a fun, up-tempo piece that will instantly grab listeners’ attention and keep it right to the song’s end.  The positive vibes in the song’s musical arrangement expertly compliment the song’s no nonsense lyrical content to show even more why this song is a standout work.  In regards to the song’s lyrical content, the song comes across as a searing indictment of those people who think everything is all about themselves.  No, it’s not the first time that any popular music act has ever gone this route, lyrically speaking.  Regardless, it’s still an enjoyable approach here.  Starr addresses those self-centered figures here, singing, “You can make something out of nothing my friend/Make yourself a little bit of money to spend/You can sing a song everybody knows/You can walk in with the skinniest girl/You can carve your initials all over the world/Put on the biggest rock and roll pose/What are you, some kind of hero/Doing everything that you can/you think that everybody’s watching, but nobody gives a damn.”  Starr’s indictment of those figures is just as searing in the song’s second verse.  He sings here, “You can walk a wire and you don’t need a mitt/You’re the best damn thing that they haven’t seen yet/Give ‘em a chance to fall in love with you/You can sing a tune to a million or two/Have your name at the top of a list of who’s who/It don’t mean nothing when the rent is due.”  He adds in the chorus this time, “Nobody cares what you do or say/They’ll forget about you anyway/Don’t you worry, it’s a waste of time/Take your number and get back in line.”  Everybody knows or has known figures such as the one(s) being addressed here.  It makes the song easily accessible and relatable for listeners.  Starr’s direct statement, versus the metaphorical beating around the bush that he could have otherwise done, strengthens the song even more.  It really makes the song stand out so clearly among the album’s entries.  Keeping in mind all of this, the song serves in its own way to prove the strength of FAL, too.  When it is joined with the equally strong ‘I’ve Got This Song’ and ‘Flesh And Bone,’ these three songs do plenty to show exactly why Blackberry Smoke has succeeded again with this album.  Of course this trio is only a small portion of what makes FAL another success for the band.  The musical and lyrical content exhibited in ‘Lord Strike Me Dead,’ ‘I’ll Keep Ramblin’’ and ‘Mother Mountain’ does just as much to show what makes this album so strong.  When all of these songs are joined with the compositions not noted here, the whole of the album proves to be a shining new offering from Blackberry Smoke, and a work that shows even more why this band is one of southern rock’s elite acts right now.

Find A Light, the latest full-length studio recording from Blackberry Smoke, is a shining (yes, this critic went that cheesy route) new offering from the veteran southern rock outfit.  That is because of the growth that is exhibited from start to end.  That growth is exhibited in a variety of different musical arrangements throughout; arrangements that show comparisons to top names from country and southern rock past and present.  The album’s relateable and at times inspiring lyrical themes show just as much growth here as the album’s musical arrangements.  That musical and lyrical growth makes the album, from start to finish, a work that is certain to keep listeners engaged and entertained completely.  That maintained engagement and entertainment will have listeners agreeing to the album’s strength, and that Blackberry Smoke has shown through those strengths once again why it is among country and southern rock’s elite acts.  Find A Light is available now in stores and online.  More information on the album is available online now along with all of the band’s latest news and more at:

 

 

 

Website: http://www.blackberrysmoke.com

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

Twitter: http://twitter.com/blackberrysmoke

 

 

 

To keep up with the latest sports and entertainment reviews and news, go online to http://www.facebook.com/philspicks and “Like” it.  Fans can always keep up with the latest sports and entertainment reviews and news in the Phil’s Picks blog at https://philspicks.wordpress.com.