Release Date: May 31, 2010
When using the comparison of a modern band to such an iconic symbol as Lynyrd Skynyrd, one must tread carefully. That being said, I’m going to employ that with these four Kentucky rockers. Those are some pretty big shoes to fill, but I think that Black Stone Cherry can wear them well. I’m not saying they are the new Skynyrd by any means, but I think BSC has a relevant comparison to the hard-hitting classic name. With their Southern Rock style, big guitar sound, and thought-provoking vocals, Black Stone Cherry may very well be the modern day version of Lynyrd Skynyrd… aside from the fact they actually spell their name grammatically correct.
One of the most prominent characteristics of this album is the insightful lyrics portrayed by vocalist and rhythm guitarist Chris Robertson. Robertson, like most other songwriters, writes about events that occur in his life to yield some of the most powerful lyrics around. The whole band is very family-oriented and inspired by them to write more and more material. Some of the lessons taught on this record include just being yourself, having fun, loving what you do. It’s not all mushy love songs or party anthems though, there are also themes of remembering where you come from and very strong anti-violence and anti-abuse messages.
The CD opens with their first single, “White Trash Millionaire” and, as soon as lead guitarist, Ben Wells, gets the talk-box going, your ears start rocking and the ball starts rolling. This song is all about staying true to your roots, no matter how much money and how famous you may be. Aside from the uniqueness of the talk-box, Robertson’s vocals come off as a surprise upon first listen. It’s a voice that you wouldn’t expect to come from this Kentucky drawling, blonde teddy bear. The boys get out the gate rocking with this one.
“Killing Floor” is up next and sounds less like a Southern Rock song and more like a hard-edged anthem for the underdog. After all, Robertson says “more than anything, we’re just a rock band that lives in the South” and they never meant to be a southern rock band, it just seemed happen that way. The message of this song, according to our interview with Chris Robertson, is about the bullying in schools, online, etc. that more kids are experiencing these days. When it “feels like it’s [you] against the world”, Black Stone Cherry is telling you that it gets better. So get up off that killing floor and live your life disregarding what the haters say.
“In My Blood” is a song that “hurts so good”. For Robertson, this is the song on the new record that is closest to his heart. He says it’s about the “constant struggle of bittersweet feelings of doing what we do” and “giving up so much”. It’s telling everyone else that the rock star life isn’t all it’s cracked up to be. The boys want their families to know that they are doing this for them. Wells shreds a solo in this song that gives you chills and really brings the point home and Robertson shows off a bit of his range in the last chorus of the song.
The double bass pedal of drummer John Fred Young kickstarts “Such A Shame” and gets your heart racing for the story that is about to unfold. This song was inspired by prostitutes the band saw in Germany. Robertson wrote about these “gorgeous women… doing drugs on the street corner and selling their bodies to make a dollar.” Robertson is very adamant about the abuse againt those who most need protection. “Violence against women and children is definitely something that I am so so so against.” This song definitely tries to raise awareness about all the problems with society when it comes to runaways, parents not paying attention to their kids, and the violence being exhibited toward women and children that needs to be stopped.
Halestorm’s goldenthroated Goddess, Lzzy Hale shows up on “Won’t Let Go”, adding some amazing backing vocals to the album’s first ballad. The song begins with some acoustic guitar by Wells, and Jon Lawhon’s bass really shines through on this song too. About having a female backing vocalist, Robertson said “people are gonna love to hate on us cause we’ve got a girl singing”, but I definitely think it works, especially in a love song such as this one. This song is all about how, no matter what life throws at you, true love never let’s go and you’ll always be by the side of the one you love. Too many bands get flack nowadays for having a chick vocalist, arguing that it makes the song “too girly” or “feminine”, but I really think the juxtaposed male/female vocals add to the vibe of the song.
“Blame it on the Boom Boom” is a song about the wild child in everyone and “boom boom” isn’t necessarily what you think it is. “The boom boom is whatever makes you feel good… it could be anything” says Robertson. Although the lyrics definitely make it obvious what the song is mainly about. It wouldn’t be rock and roll without the sex. Robertson breaks down with a little rap-talk session a third of the way through the song, which is definitely different for their style, but it keeps with the fast-paced rhythm of the song.
When I first heard BSC’s cover of Marshall Tucker Band’s “Can’t You See”, I was a bit taken aback, but once I realized what song it was, it made so much sense for them to be covering it. Going with the style of classic sounding rock bands, Black Stone Cherry does this song justice. BSC adds some more electric guitar and drums, and also skips the little flute intro, putting their own little spin on it. These boys take the standard banjo, short clipped lyrics, out of the southern rock song and remake it for a more modern audience to enjoy.
“Stay” is another ballad backed by Lzzy Hale. Robertson is trying to serenade his significant other and make her stick around with questions like “If I told you I loved you, would it make you want to stay?” He pleads with his love to come back home to him. Wells’ guitar pleads back along with Robertson’s vocals and seems to be leaving, then coming back over and again.
“Change” may be the hardest hitting song on the album with chugging guitars, boomimg drums and Lawhon’s grooving bass. The lyrics tell others to “make your move” as a sort of calling out to the government that “we are waiting for a change” that has been a long time coming, but still isn’t here.
Black Stone Cherry ends the album with “All I’m Dreamin’ Of”, a song that makes you want to change the world into a Utopia. The first line of the song says there’s “something about our world today that makes me wanna cry.” It’s almost as if BSC is waiting for people to forget their pride and all their fortunes and just love their life and those in it. It’s about forgetting about all the problems in the world and just living. You get that friends around a beach campfire with the ole acoustic guitar vibe on this track, and it’s a nice way to finish off the record.
All in all, Black Stone Cherry offers us solid platter of Southern tinged hard rockin’ on what is arguably their best album to date. These four Kentucky-bred boys know how to tug on our heart strings with deep felt lyrics that carry more meaning than most like “Won’t Let Go” and “Stay”, but they also know how to make us get up and jump around with hard hitters like “Killing Floor” and “Change”. With this 3rd studio album, highest debuting first single, and a slot on Carnival Of Madness Tour alongside Theory of a Deadman, Alter Bridge, Adelitas Way, and Emphatic, these boys are finally getting the break they deserve. Even if they did have to fall Between the Devil & The Deep Blue Sea to get there.