Named after their home state, Kentucky is the fifth studio album release from southern rockers Black Stone Cherry. The album was released on April 1st through Mascot Label Group having left Roadrunner Records in 2015. Having had a lot of success across the world, particularly here in the UK, many of us are accustomed to the very distinct ‘southern’ hard-rock styles of Black Stone Cherry. That doesn’t change with this next album except for the fact they’ve really taken a step back and rediscovered the sound from their roots.
And it’s not just the sound that has returned to it’s roots. As well as naming the album after their home state, the band also returned to Barrick Recording to record the new album having also recorded their debut self-titled album there. The album is filled with the hard-rock we expected. Heavy guitar riffs, pumping rhythm sections and catchy choruses are everything we expect from Black Stone Cherry and we are immediately exposed to that with the opening track ‘The Way Of The Future’. It’s a great way to start the album and although we love it, what we love even more is the fact that the album also shows off some musical versatility.
‘Soul Machine’ is a perfect example of this versatility. Brass sections and female backing vocals, this track really does a lot of soul, as the title of it suggests, while also maintaining the heavy guitar sounds. The miss of brass, heavy guitars, added vocals just really mix up beautifully; the guitar solo with brass backing is a particular highlight. Thankfully, that’s not the last of the ‘soul’ mix on the album. Edwin Starr’s ‘War’ is a risky cover to try and pull off on a studio album… but hey… this is Black Stone Cherry we are talking about… and they don’t just pull it off, they bloody knock it right out the park!
‘Rescue Me’ is worth a mention just for the A Capella opening before breaking down into the heavy guitar riffs and extremely emotive sounding chorus; we do wish the A Capella was dragged out a bit more, these guys have the capabilities to really make something like that work. The album is scattered with top rock songs and some stripped back tracks but does seem to include a couple of fillers; that might be due to the very high standard of the rest of the tracks though. Highlights are ‘Long Ride’ and it’s VERY VERY catchy chorus, and ‘The Rambler’, which is a beautiful, stripped back way to finish the album. It gives an emotional end to a very strong album.
It’s obvious that the members of this band know each other inside and out, both personally and musically, as is apparent with the fact they have been together for 15 years. It really shows in their music and all their performances are near-perfect. Kentucky really shows off what Black Stone Cherry have achieved and confirms that they have so much more to achieve as well.