Saturday, December 10, 2011

Black Stone Cherry "Between The Devil & The Deep Blue Sea" Review

01) White Trash Millionaire
02) Killing Floor
03) In My Blood
04) Such A Shame
05) Won't Let Go
06) Blame It On The Boom Boom
07) Like I Roll
08) Can't You See [Marshall Tucker Band cover]
09) Shake
10) Stay
11) Change
12) All I'm Dreaming Of
~~~~~iTunes Bonus Tracks~~~~~
13) Staring At The Mirror
14) Fade Away
15) Die For You

Chris Robertson - guitar and lead vocals
Ben Wells - guitar and vocals
Jon Lawhon - bass and vocals
John Fred Young - drums and vocals

Howard Benson

Mike Plotnikoff


Black Stone Cherry are back! That's right, returning with their fourth album (that is counting their independently released 2003 offering "Rock N' Roll Tape") are those young ass kickin' Southern rockers!! It has been two and a half years since their last album was released. In the meantime the band have spent the majority of that time touring the world one their own and supporting some of the biggest acts in Rock. In the fall of 2010 the band left the comforts of home in Kentucky and entered the studio in Los Angeles with Howard Benson to record the new album due May 31st on Roadrunner Records. This album marks the first time the band has recorded away from their southern comforts.

Listeners are greeted with an earful of distorted amplifier feedback leading into a slammin' wah-wah and talk box laced riff that starts off the new album and their first radio single "White Trash Millionaire." Lyrically the tune is a middle finger to those who look down upon the band members. It definitely gets the album off to a slamming start and continues on into "Killing Floor". This cut is very reminiscent of Alice In Chains in the verses than kicking into a vocally wide open chorus and also musically it also has an AIC feel. The guitars reeks of Jerry Cantrell! "In My Blood" slows the pace down just a bit but not too much. I can envision this mid-tempo number as a future single. It borders on a ballad lyrically but musically has the balls it doesn't get watered down into Bon Jovi territory!!

The band has progressed in all areas from songwriting, musicianship and their harmonies are definitely a notch above what they've delivered in the past. It is scary how much talent these guys have and how they continue to get better. While they may not be the biggest thing in rock, what they have going for them is that they won't be going away anytime soon!

Continuing their tradition of storytelling within their tunes. "Such A Shame" dives into the subject of a young girl from a broken home becoming mixed up in the seedier side of life only to end up dead. Dig the subtle fading female background vocal after the title of the song is sang. This cut could make a really powerful video to show teens there is an alternative to a life of drugs and living on the streets! I don't think that the band gets as much credit as they deserve for their musicianship but the acoustic fretwork displayed during "Won't Let Go" is on par with some of the best. I was surprised to learn that Lizzy Hale of Halestorm makes an appearance on background vocals, she adds a nice haunting touch to this mid-tempo rocker! "Blame It On The Boom Boom" has been around for a while as it was offered up as a free download from Kentucky-based bourbon company Evan Williams in December 2010!! It is a nasty groove rocker that should go over big-time live!

"Like I Roll" is my pick for favorite song of the album! It is just a feelgood uptempo song with a catchy chorus. I can see this crossing over on VH-1 & CMT with the proper video treatment. I CANNOT BRAG ON "LIKE I ROLL" ENOUGH!! A MASTERPIECE OF A TUNE!! It easily could have been a John Mellencamp or Bob Seger anthem back in the day!! The next cut will be the most scrutinized song on the album as it is a cover of The Marshall Tucker Band's "Can't You See." They did the track justice however having seen them cover it live, I feel the production stripped some of the magick of the live version away. Still not a bad rendition unlike Poison's butchering of it from 2007. Fans of Southern Rock should be pleased with Black Stone Cherry's take on this classic!

"Shake" is a hypnotic groove rocker perfect to listen to while sitting in your favorite whiskey soaked strip joint while some hottie shakes her tail feather for ya!! Felt like I was in the 80's when Chris fired off the lyric "She squeezed my lemon just to drink the juice!".....nice touch on the lust laden track! The band heads into the anthemic mid-tempo ballad territory with "Stay." I can see the ladies loving this track while it features one of the better guitar solos on the record, just a tad short in duration though. Somebody wake me up cause I'm having a case of déjà vu hearing "Change", it sure sounds eerily like "Lonely Train" from the bands self-titled 2006 album! That IS NOT a bad thang though. The vocal breakdown over the solo section is an especially nice touch. John Fred channels his inner John Bonham with some sledgehammer-esque drumming!

Paddle faster, I hear banjos!! GOTCHA!! Stand down, just some badass banjo and mandolin pickin' nothing to fear with the last track of the album "All I'm Dreaming Of." This track could easily be titled "Peace Is Free II" as it continues with the theme (or dream) that "Peace Is Free" drove home!! I also hear touches of my favorite stringed instrument, THE DOBRO. Minus the subtle orchestration and a few sparse electric guitar parts, the song is all acoustic and hand-drumming NICE! One day, I hope Black Stone Cherry releases an acoustic live cd/dvd in the vein of Tesla's "Five Man Acoustical Jam". They're one of the few 'newer' bands who have the talent to pull it off!! Definitely an interesting way to close out an album.

I will have to wait till the album's release on iTunes to get the three bonus tracks (Staring At The Mirror, Fade Away, Die For You) to review them. Overall, I feel, as stated before in this review, that Black Stone Cherry has progressed in all areas possible without turning into a "radio only band"! They still groove n' rock with the best but are not afraid to pick up an acoustic and show a lil' Southern fried soul!! The production on this album is stellar without glossing over the final product and the band is sounding better and better with each passing gig and album!!

Video for "White Trash Millionaire"

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