Black Stone Cherry, ‘Kentucky’ – Album Review
With many bands, their sound doesn’t necessarily reflect or represent where they are from geographically. Not so with Black Stone Cherry, whose southern rock roots have shined through ever since they burst upon the scene a decade ago. Their fifth album Kentucky is named after their home state.
Black Stone Cherry have had plenty of success here in the U.S. with several hit singles and albums that have landed in the top 30 of the Billboard 200 chart. Their very American sound has enjoyed even more success chart-wise in Europe, with their last three albums topping the U.K. rock chart.
They've returned to their roots for this album, recording Kentucky in Kentucky at David Barrick’s Barrick Recording. That’s also where they recorded their 2006 self-titled debut. Drummer John Fred Young says, "Man, it was perfect, the experience of getting to record here at home, being with our families, having the opportunity to record with David Barrick again and with all that amazing gear he has."
Young continues, "You can never really go back to, 'Oh, I'm 17 again. I don't know how to perfectly tune a guitar or hit the perfect drum lick.' But you can mix some of that into what you are now. We just had a blast and didn't hold anything back.”
Kentucky follows the path of their previous albums with plenty of hard rocking, southern-fried songs like the opener “The Way of the Future.” Heavy riffs and a memorable chorus make it a strong beginning to the album.
The band would do just fine if they followed that template throughout because that type of song is so catchy. However, Black Stone Cherry are very versatile and use many different approaches on Kentucky. They add brass flourishes and female backing vocals on “Soul Machine,” which meshes very well with the heavy guitars. That brass is also present on their version of the Edwin Starr classic “War.”
They ease up a bit on “Long Ride,” a straightforward rock song with probably the hookiest chorus on the entire album, although “Born to Die” gives it a run for its money. “Rescue Me” begins with a cappella harmonies before kicking in to a full southern stomp.
With the same lineup since they formed 15 years ago, Black Stone Cherry’s chemistry is impeccable. That’s especially the case with guitarists Chris Robertson (who also is the vocalist) and Ben Wells. Their interplay is effortless throughout the album.
The album closes on quiet note with the acoustic “The Rambler,” an emotional track with fiddle adding a country flavor. It nicely ties the album together with lyrics that include “A million miles from Kentucky, but I will always be around.”
Black Stone Cherry are maturing, which is reflected on the songwriting, but they are still able to turn it loose and rock as hard as they always have. It’s an effective balance, and Kentucky is a diverse and impactful album.