Release DetailsLABEL Roadrunner
RELEASED ON 7/18/2006
Black Stone Cherry
posted on 7/2006 By:
Looking for a gritty, unpolished, and dirtied hard rock record? Well, too bad. You’re not going to find it here. What you will find will perhaps prove more interesting to a greater audience, however. Black Stone Cherry posses on their debut what Nickelback, Godsmack and other popular “hard” rock groups could never attain through their entire discography; a more credible, technical, and immediate rock sound. Where Nickelback is dull and flaccid, Black Stone Cherry pops up with a big ole tent. Where Nickelback sounds like forced melodicism, BSC oozes Kentucky groove. If properly pimped by the folks at Roadrunner, they could easily find a welcome home on the hard rock charts, radio stations, and Fuse (MTV, perhaps, but they’re a little less friendly to rock).
Vocalist Chris Robertson carries this southern foursome through thirteen songs that, while consistently well constructed and livelier than their hard rock peers, have questionable staying power. Robertson is a talent, no doubt, but one feels a bit like he’s holding back from letting his voice stretch. He doesn’t have that wow factor that makes a frontman like Clutch’s Neil Fallon so commanding, which wouldn’t be so troublesome if BSC didn’t name-drop groups like Skynyrd and Alice in Chains as influences and points of comparison. As great as Skynyrd and AIC were in producing stellar riffs, they would never have attained the same degree of success had they not both had frontmen that commanded attention. Ironically, the poppier “Tired of the Rain” highlights Robertson’s strengths best, and had the rest of the album sounded like that one track, it would have garnered higher scores. He pushes his voice, displays a commendable range, and accentuates the groove. Worth mentioning is his and Ben Wells’ guitar parts, which breathe much easier here than anywhere else. They’re not as formulaic or predictable as the majority of the album. Hell, there’s even a relatively impressive, albeit incredibly short solo 2/3rds of the way through.
More than any other element present, the songwriting deserves praise. Not to mislead, but these thirteen tracks are impressive in their ability to capture a sound that many will no doubt find perfect for afternoon relaxation. Grab your favorite beer (if you’re 21 or over, of course), set up a suitably comfortable chair wherever it is you chill, tune out the world and press play; this will be your BSC sanctuary. Songs like “Hell & High Water” are catchier than anything you’ll hear all year and will make a quick and easy impression on most listeners. It’s easy to see why “Lonely Train” was chosen as the lead single. It’s dark, angry, emotional, and contains a decent chorus, but it’s a little too radio-friendly for my taste. However, one can imagine that the attendees at this summer’s Buckcherry tour, on which BSC serves as support, will find it to their liking.
In the group’s biography, bassist Jon Lawhon says, “It's all about the groove, the way it makes people move." If only Jon, if only. Not all listeners are poppin’ E and puttin’ their best dance shoes on when they listen to an album. It takes a bit more. You play hard rock? Rock just a little bit harder. Clutch could easily be described as a band with groove, and yes, they make people move, but what works for them is an element of complexity. With each listen, one becomes aware of something new, whether it’s the organ notes between intense riffage on Robot Hive / Exodus’ “100011101” or the bluesy guitar parts opening “Who’s Been Talking?.” There’s an element of surprise. After a while, one begins to tire of hearing the down-home, down-tuned, and southern-fried formula cooked up on this debut. It’s strong, but a more varied follow-up will be needed for fans to sustain interest.
Don’t let the name-dropping mislead you. BSC is not Clutch. BSC is not Alice in Chains. BSC ain’t even Nickelback, though they are certainly closer in sound to the latter than any of the former. BSC plays easily digestible hard rock with heavier balls than any of their popular peers. Whether that’s worth your money depends on your palate. Groove just a little bit groovier, make the rock harder, and squeeze the sack of Robertson with more force and I’d say these guys got mine.
Register to post comments.