I’ve said it before & I’ll say it again: one of the greatest marks of a truly great album is that the more you listen to it, the more you fall in love with it. This statement could not be a more accurate for Black Stone Cherry’s latest album Kentucky which debuted just last month. If you’re not familiar with BSC, they are a Southern rock band based out of Edmonton, KY. The group formed when the guys were still in high school & they released their first album in 2006. BSC has never released a bad album but this latest effort, which is their fifth album, may easily be their best work to date. I’ll soon explain why, but first let me explain a bit about why this band appeals to me so much.
Most importantly of course I just love their music. It’s raw & dirty in all the right ways, Chris’s voice is soulful & mesmerizing, the lyrics are well-crafted, the guitars are gritty, & there is no question that these guys are incredibly talented musicians. Furthermore, as a fellow Southerner who grew up in a small town I can’t help but be attracted to a band with such a similar background. If four “good ole boys” with Southern accents from Nowhere, Kentucky can tour the world as (relatively) famous rock stars, that just seems like proof that any of us can do anything we really set our minds to if we just work hard enough. Additionally while the band does fulfill some rock & roll stereotypes with their tattoos, piercings, & long hair, it’s pretty obvious that none of them has ever gotten caught up in the drugs (nothing harder than marijuana anyway, which hardly counts) & partying that so often accompanies the rock & roll way of life. In fact, these days all four of the guys are married & all but one has children. I think it’s safe to say these guys are good role models for how to handle the rock & roll world without descending into total debauchery.
Without further ado, let’s delve into what makes Kentucky such a great album. I hope you’ll take the time to click at least a few of the links I’ve provided so you can check out the songs for yourself.
The album opens with The Way of the Future which addresses all of the crazy things about modern life including the prevalence of violence & suicide & the ubiquitous crowd of people screaming “I’m offended!” with insightful lyrics such as these: “Wake up, hope ya don’t get shot/Step out, hope ya don’t get robbed/There’s children killin’ theirselves/Who killed who else, we’re killin’ ourselves . . . Hang on, let’s all get offended/Keep on poisonin’ the system/There’s just wrong & there’s right/No black & no white/No right in this fight/Throw away everything/You been told to believe/Break away from these chains/We’re supposed to be free, yeah free . . . It’s the way of the future/That don’t work for me . . . ” As usual the guitars are gritty & pair perfectly with Chris’s soulful voice.
Next up is In Our Dreams which I see as a love song in which Chris basically says “The world’s gone mad but will you stay with me?” Gritty guitar riffs abound in this piece & contribute to the feeling of madness that pervades the song.
The third song Shakin’ My Cage is a tribute to a tantalizing woman. This song is a perfect example of how BSC knows how to write songs that are dirty in all the right ways. My favorite lyrics are these: “Maybe she’s evil but I’m not afraid/I talked to the devil, it’s my chance to take/She’s my kind of magic, a warm smoking gun/I found my Medusa, she burn out the sun/She burn out the sun!” Also, there are some great bass lines in this song.
Next up is Soul Machine. I don’t know about y’all, but this one just makes me want to let loose & dance. There are some fantastic guitars solos in this one too.
The fifth song Long Ride is a bit more of a ballad which appears to have been written with the guys’ wives in mind. “It’s been a long ride but you’ve stayed by my side/It wouldn’t be the same without you/It wouldn’t be the same without you/There’s been some long nights & sure we’ve had our fights/It wouldn’t be the same without you/It wouldn’t be the same without you/And now we’re here, we’ve got this far /There’s nothing that could tear our world apart.”
Next up is one of my favorites on the album which is a cover of the classic Edwin Starr song War. With plenty of added funk & Chris’s strong voice, BSC has made this song even more powerful than the original version. With all the violence in the world today, this song is every bit as relevant as when it was first released. Don’t miss this one!
The seventh song Hangman is one of those that grows on me every time I hear it. The guitars are just so gritty & dirty that I can’t help but love it. I can’t objectively explain what I mean when I say gritty & dirty, but I know it’s there when I hear it. Anyway, I’m not sure what Chris had in mind when he wrote the lyrics here, but I can’t help but think of his own struggles with mental illness & suicidal thoughts, & I see this song as his way of saying he’s not going to let the darkness overcome him. “Hangman, hangman, tie your knot tight/Time is up & I’m not running from you tonight/I’m not afraid & you’re not my savior/Hangman!”
Next up is a song that is just pure fun from start to finish & is definitely one of my favorites on the disc. Cheaper to Drink Alone starts off with a super cool guitar riff & progresses into a hilarious song about a high maintenance woman who makes it literally & figuratively cheaper to drink alone. Lyrically this song is so well crafted as it plays on both meanings of the word broke (as in heartbroken & out of money). “Yeah, she’ll leave you more than heartbroke/High heels & high-dollar cosmos/Wish it was but it ain’t no joke/Cheaper to drink, cheaper to drink/Cheaper to drink alone/Well I guess I should have seen the warning/But you was everything I ever wanted/Always kept me coming back for more/And god, I felt like taking you home/You burn a memory in my head/Like shots of whiskey when they hit your chest/You loved me & left me in the red/And now I don’t feel nothing but broke/Yeah broke. . .“
The tenth song Feelin’ Fuzzy can probably be taken several different ways. Some may see it as a simple drinking song or an ode to Mary Jane (there were plenty of the latter on BSC’s previous album Magic Mountain), but I think one could also take it as a love song which celebrates that magical warm & fuzzy feeling being in love gives us.
Next up is another of my favorites on this album. Born To Die contains beautiful lyrics which encourage us to live our lives full of love & meaning. “I was fifteen, yeah I knew it all/I tried to run before I knew how to crawl/And couldn’t nobody seem to make me understand/But in this life you’ve got to pick your fights/And even if you lose you’ve got to know you tried/Sometimes you’ve got to fall before you dance/Because we’re born to die/In this life, when it’s time/Think about what you leave behind/You’ve got a love for life/Take your time, make it right/Before you go, you can shine a light.”
The album closes with The Rambler, the only true ballad & purely acoustic song on the album, which has quickly become another favorite of mine because of the poignant lyrics. I think anyone who’s ever spent a long time away from their loved ones will be touched by this song. “You were born in a Southern Fall/It might have been Sunday but I can’t recall/All the birthdays I must have missed/Your first steps & your first kiss/I don’t even know if you know my name/But you should hear the truth before it’s too late/So I hope this finds you on some highway/’Cause I’m an old time rambler/I call the road my home/Forgive my indiscretion/It’s the only way I know/A million miles from Kentucky/But I will always be around/So turn the radio up when your heart breaks down.”
I hope you’ve clicked on at least a few of the links here & found some fun new music to enjoy. Most importantly, if you do find that you like these songs, PLEASE GO OUT & PURCHASE THE ACTUAL ALBUM! (It’s at Best Buy.) At the very least, please pay for it through a legitimate source such as iTunes. Musicians, especially rock bands, need all the support they can get these days, & that includes financially. After all, they can’t continue to make awesome music if people aren’t actually buying it. Okay, end soapbox. Happy Wednesday, everyone!