Released: 2006, Roadrunner Records
Reviewer: Lord of the Wasteland
Remember that Old El Paso salsa commercial where the grizzled cowboys sit around the fire and explode in anger (“This stuff’s made in New York City!”) when one of them has the gall to offer up a generic, non-Southern-made atrocity? The same can be applied to music where Yankee bands like Brand New Sin (who, coincidentally are from Syracuse, New York) tout the merits of southern-fried hard rock/metal.
Anyone seeking the “real deal” need look no further than Edmonton, Kentucky’s Black Stone Cherry. On their self-titled debut (surprisingly housed on Roadrunner Records), this foursome bleeds blues-y riffs, effortlessly drops hook-filled melodies and choruses and possesses enough groove to kickstart a 747. Chris Robertson’s vocals are equal parts Stevie Ray Vaughan and BADMOTORFINGER-era Chris Cornell and when paired with Ben Wells’ arena rock riffs and power chords, each of the thirteen tracks here explode with anthemic potential. The thunderous rhythm section of Jon Lawhon and John Fred Young provide a concrete backbeat that echoes that of the mighty Led Zeppelin. Some subtly-used Hammond B3 organ adds just the right amount of seventies/hippie rock flavor to the proceedings making BLACK STONE CHERRY heavy enough for metalheads but still safe enough for an air guitar rocker to speed down the highway to.
A lumbering bassline from Jon Lawhon and chunky riff ignite the Soundgarden-meets-Raging Slab groove of “Rain Wizard.” Robertson’s powerful and commanding vocals fight for domination alongside Wells’ blistering solo to produce an immediate classic. The driving tempo of barroom stompers like “Backwoods Gold,” “Lonely Train” and “Violator Girl” are chock full of metallic hooks that penetrate that part of the brain that involuntarily makes one’s fist pump and head bang. Instead of going full throttle 100% of the time, Black Stone Cherry injects soothing choruses into tracks like “When The Rain Comes Down” and the Lynyrd Skynyrd-like “Rollin’ On” that are both catchy and heavy at the same time. Whether channeling soulful blues on “Hell and High Water” or the guitar reverb of early Aerosmith on “Crosstown Woman,” the band is firing on all cylinders.
Black Stone Cherry may be four good ol’ boys from Kentucky but the musicianship found on their self-titled debut is years above their youth (average age of the band members = 23). Also, these guys seem to be by-passing the faux-rawk scene of hipsters and ironic wannabes seeking bandwagon acceptance which is refreshing. This album is filled with an endless supply of fiery rock and blues riffs and metallic crunch that spells absolute success from start to finish. Mixing Molly Hatchet with Black Label Society, BLACK STONE CHERRY may be one of the most enjoyable albums to come along this year and is an absolutely awe-inspiring debut. Crack open a tall boy, break out the air guitar and get ready for a walloping punch of southern-fried rock and metal that is actually from the South!
KILLER KUTS: “Rain Wizard,” “Backwoods Gold,” “Lonely Train,” “When The Weight Comes Down,” “Crosstown Woman,” “Hell and High Water,” “Violator Girl,” “Rollin’ On”