on 22 June 2011
Now, I'm writing this album after having many years to listen to it. However, I think its important that I rave about this album for a little while. It might not be the next Appetite for Destruction, in that, it doesn't exactly change the face of Rock music forever. In fact, this entire album is pretty derivative and the influences of BSC are proudly borne on their sleeves (and allusion to the song: 'Long Sleeves' from their second album). However, this rooty-ness is not a bad thing at all. This is a modern rock band, with old school influences, not a band like Evile who try and sound from the 1980s, they're modern but traditional. This album is full of big riffs that could be from Lynrd Skynrd or Gus G but with a distinctive sound that unites the whole album.
That is the core reason this album is so darn good. Each song has its own personality but all come from the same place musically and have a unity that makes for a really strong, cohesive album that hits hard but also entertains.
A quick breakdown of the tracks:
1. Rain Wizard: Chris Robertson screams 'Hear comes the rain' and the riffage smashes into you like a Somalian Rugby player. It is a perfect opener, is absolutely breathtaking live and has everything a song should have. It has the meaty riffs that give it substance, a fitting solo and a sing-along-chorus. It redefines what a Stadium Rock song should be, in my opinion. It is fresh sounding, but critic pleasing and I think it sets the Black Stone Cherry formula of Riff-Verse-Chorus-Solo that works so well for them, because they do it so well. 9/10
2. Backwoods Gold: One of the good things with the album, one of the things that give the album longevity, is the element of sonic experimentation that these guys are capable of. Okay, they're not Morello, but they don't stick to one sound for the guitars and are willing to mess about in the studio to get the right mood for the song. Whilst I think this is one of those songs that underwhelms at first but then brings you back to the album when you find yourself humming the chorus, it keeps up the attitude set out in the first song. 7/10
3. Lonely Train: This is an early stand out track, a single that has everything that works for a radio. It has the change in tone vocally from the chorus to the massive chorus. The riff is awesome and the guitars sound meaty. The drums are fabulous (I'm not a massive one for drums, but having seen these guys live, the drummmer is the real deal, when he loses his sticks, he just picks up with his hands, even during a solo. Pure genius, especially when it sounds too good to be a gimmick). It also has the bridge and the positive and somewhat cheesy lyrics that just add the to the Charm of BSC. 10/10
4. Maybe Someday: Again, I tend to put this one with 'Backwoods Gold'. I love the intro and the chorus, and this song would be a lead single on many other albums. It's very good, nice to hear live and keeps up the attitude, however, coming after Lonely Train, it is a bit of a prop. However, Lonely Train is a first among equals and this song is still brilliant, just not as brilliant. 8/10
5. When The Weight Comes Down: Another Radio-pleaser, I think this is a darn good song. I like the lyrics, they're catchy and memorable and the chorus, like pretty much all on the album is a sing-a-long, driving tune that, I don't know, is some kind of magic that this album creates. Another solid effort I think would be a lead single on many albums: 8/10
6. Crosstown Woman: Here BSC really delve into their blues roots lyrically, and I like it. Its a change from the fantastical story telling and cheesy save the world lyrics which have their charm. This song breaks up the album a little bit, keeping it from been too much of the same. Along with the previous track they give a change of pace without changing the attitude of the album. Another good live track methinks. Yes, this is one of the more derivative songs but it maintains the high standard that the basic tracks hold on this album. 8/10
7. Shooting Star: Again, linking in with Maybe Someday, but more so with Backwoods Gold on the intro. This song also has quite a lot in common with 'The Bitter End' from the second album but far heavier. I really like this song as its great to listen too. However, apart from the crazy guitars at the beginning this is a 'oh I like this song!' that comes along with the album rather than one that really stands out. I like the difference between the Chorus and the Verse along with the solo. Its another change of direction from Crosstown Woman and whilst maybe a bit of filler it keeps the album fresh and leaves you wanting more. 7/10
8. Hell and High Water: I am biased for this song, I admit it. This is the song that got me into BSC. For me it is everything a song should be. It has a great riff that kicks stuff off, a verse that you can sing along to (and, of special interest for me, the bassist actually proves he has more than just the rhythm section going on, carrying the verses along nicely). I love the lyrics of the song and the melody. The backing vocals, always a strong point for BSC (especially when mixed well live) are great for this song. The Chorus is brilliant, the lyrics, the melody, it all speaks of Summer and happiness to me and is exactly what the song should be. As for its place in the album, its far more radio-friendly than Shooting Star and is more in the vein of When The Weight Comes Down for the sound and I like that as again its a breath of fresh air for the record. A brilliant track that no matter what BSC do next (and after the abysmal effort of Between the Devil and the Deep Blue Sea, they have to do something special) will forever enshrine them in rock greatness for me. 10/10
9.Shape of Things: A cover that's not really needed. I can't remember the orignial band who did it. I know Alice Cooper likes it. I love the bass work on this song and the vocals are great. However, as a follow up to Hell and High Water it is lacking and the guys didn't really need to put a cover on this album as their original work is good enough. That said, I do like the song, its got great instrumental work and vocal work. However, because its not a BSC original I feel the delivery lacks a litle bit of a passion that the rest of the album has, and Chris Robertson's vocals sometimes sound a little forced in their tone, which is rare! The weakest point of the album, but as i said, shows the technical quality of the the entire band, especially the drumming on the Chorus. 6/10
10: Violater Girl: Black Stone Cherry do not do swagger well. They're not bad guys. They're country lads who have a rockers heart. When they try to be grungy and LA on us, they fail. This is where this song falls down: its a party tune for a bunch of guys not really up for the party. I always felt it sound forced. That said, I love the drum work and the mini-breakdowns that are going on and it does help bring back a bit of the attitude from the small interim from the previous two songs. A solid track, but a little bit of filler that if it wasn't there wouldn't be missed. That said, not a bad song in anyway, just not a great on either. This album's filler is another band's lead single. 6/10
11: Tired of the Rain: For the album, this is back to BSC, a great bit of lyrical story telling for this song. A great intro as well that has a good old vibe to it. Its probably the most old-fashioned southern song of their album and gives us a hint of their next album. I really like it though. The Chorus is big enough to sing along to, its one of the songs that I could see myself covering live. The lyrics always interested me, and I love this little bit of Hammond Organ sound going on, gives another dimenstion to BSC. Another stand out track: 10/10
12. Drive: A huge intro follows the last song, its a real feel-good song that beckons in the end of the album with a really nice feel. It has the attitude of the rest of the album, and they do manage a little bit of rock and roll swagger on this song comfortably with the 'gonna show her my sweet mean machine, built on love, fueled by gasoline', okay, its a nice attempt at innuendo and brings in the huge Stadium Chorus. I love it to be honest. It has been a real grower. If you'd asked me a couple of years ago I'd probably say the weakest track on the album, but I think its up there with the other tracks that have held the album up with attitude and quality. It sits somewhere between Lonely Train and Rain Wizard in feel, but with a good dose of whiskey-fuelled, deep south to keep it relaxed. 9/10
13. Rolling On: Another old fashioned track to leave you feeling satisfied at the end of the album. I like to think of this as the post-sex cuddle. The lyrics are relaxed and bring to mind sun-drenched Kentucky and the good southern Rock bands of yesteryear. It speaks of moving forwards but in such a relaxed manner that you don't mind. It clearly shows that the band has got their eye on development but they present in such a traditional way that you don't realise it until you really spend some time listening to it. The riffs are nice, the bass great, the drums solid and the hammond organ is always a lovely addition to these kind of songs. The vocals sound really relaxed and as though he is enjoying himself by the end of the album. Brilliant ending track: 9/10
Overall, genius. They keep the great songs throughout and you never get bored during the album, you always think, one more song before you change it over and by the end of it, you've gone through the whole album. Its one of the best albums I own and I think it has to be up there in the top ten debut albums, especially since they've since proven they're not a one album band.