By: Aidan Clucas
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Released on April 1, 2016 via Mascot Label Group
Black Stone Cherry’s fifth album has been touted as their most diverse, mature, and dynamically exciting. With a title like Kentucky, it’s clear they have attempted to return home, in doing so to the recording studio that produced their opus eponymous. A decade later, the quartet are family men instead of the children that first entered, and with an abundance of worldwide experience returning to their origins, the place where their journey took its fullest step, can yield some incredible results.
They have definitely not returned to their original sound but Black Stone Cherry have never drastically evolved their sound. They have a tried and tested formula and slowly add elements into it. Many songs are notably heavier than before, including a Metallica riff-a-bout in ‘Rescue Me’, whilst ‘Cheaper to Drink Alone’ features a drum machine in the intro. But at the core, it’s mostly riff driven songs guided by powerful lyrics and thunderous rhythm section, as well as the occasional classic rock guitar solo.
‘The Way of the Future’ introduces the heavy and dark songs immediately with its fuzzy toned and low tuned introduction, and ‘Shakin’ My Cage’ a quick reminder that this album will be a stack of guitar riffs, whilst ‘Darkest Secret’ adds in some speed metal elements. ‘In Our Dreams’ features one of Black Stone Cherry’s most interesting choruses so far, a merging of soaring melodies and crunchy wah-guitar, coupled with pounding drums in the pre-chorus.
Recently released single ‘Soul Machine’ demonstrates the incredible hooks that have made Black Stone Cherry as successful as they are. These songs aren’t just built to be played live, they’re meant for arenas. Their cover of ‘War’ might be slightly cheesy, and may disgruntle the elitists, but everyone else will smile and sing along.
‘The Rambler’ is a beautiful way of ending the album, called the ‘emotional crucible’, it was co-written by former Shinedown guitarist Jason Todd. This song finally feels like the return home Black Stone Cherry were craving, and as it is at the end it signifies a full circle after an album which is thankfully, as they wished it to be, Black Stone Cherry’s most diverse yet.
Kentucky demonstrates the band’s spoils of war, garnered over many miles around the globe, playing in front of thousands of people. It’s a step up from Magic Mountain, but thankfully not just making the same music they made when they were kids; they may have finally “evolved”, and Kentucky represents the closing of their first chapter, and the beginning of fresh new passage in life.