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Rock - Released October 30, 2020 | Mascot Records

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Over six previous albums, Kentucky's Black Stone Cherry continued to prove that their hoary hybrid of Southern rock, grunge, post-metal, and hard rock remains vital. The Human Condition underscores their deserved reputation as the brotherhood of Southern swamp metal, but there is immense growth in their creative process. Previously, BSC's recording process always involved cutting basic tracks while playing live on the studio floor. Working in bassist Jon Lawhon's Monocle Studios, the band did a 180: For the first time ever, they meticulously multi-tracked every note and sound. The sonic detail is indeed expansive, but the group sacrificed none of their power or swagger. They also felt a sense of urgency; while recording, the COVID-19 pandemic was spreading exponentially, and they undertook marathon sessions to complete the record. They finished days before the world shut down. The result is a startlingly fresh-sounding BSC album. Opener "Ringin' in My Head" offers muted feedback and dissonance before a bone-crunching guitar riff introduces the melody. Though written years ago, its lyrics are oddly prescient: "People people, your attention please/I need to tell all y'all about a new disease/it's crept right up from beneath our nose...I got a ringin' in my head/My bones are shakin'...I can feel it in my chest...The whole world's been shaken." The jam welds shattering grunge to metal as vocalist Chris Robertson sounds the alarm. "Push Down & Turn" offers scorching swamp metal. Robertson wails about his struggles with bipolar disorder and the band protects him with a maelstrom of overdriven riffs, chugging bass, and John Fred Young's thundering kick drums. "When Angels Learn to Fly" and "In Love with the Pain" are both exercises in the kind of anthemic AOR stadium rock balladry employed by bands such as 38 Special and the Outlaws. The muscular, dynamic production frames infectious, melodic hooks, vulnerable lyrics, and chiming group choruses. The metallic psych in "The Chain" channels Soundgarden in the best possible way. "If My Heart Had Wings" melds Dobro, electric guitars, piano, synth strings, and majestic processional drumming as Robertson heartbreakingly confesses his shortcomings in a relationship strained to the breaking point. BSC's customary inclusion of a classic cover remains in a noisy, slamming, irresistible read of ELO's "Don't Bring Me Down," offered with impeccable backing vocals and the filthiest bass line Lawhon has yet recorded. On "Devil in Your Eyes," Ben Wells channels Sonny Landreth's slide guitar sound before raging into dark, swirling Pearl Jam-esque hard rock. "Keep On Keepin' On" had to close the set. Despite its fist-pumping riff and hard rock vamp, the lyrical melody and group refrain return us to the tragic uncertainty of the present: "When everything that's good is gone, got to keep on keepin' on." The Human Condition's polished production might startle, but it's key to the band's most adventurous, mature, and finely wrought album to date, hands down. © Thom Jurek /TiVo
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Blues - Released November 1, 2019 | Mascot Records

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If it ain’t broke don’t fix it. Black Stone Cherry adopted this very principle when they started making music again in 2017 with their EP Black to Blues. Here, we are given another welcome dose of covers that stem from their blues, soul and rhythm’n’blues influences. We sure have no reason to complain when the Kentucky group master their subject so well that some tracks seem to have been written precisely for them. From the opening Big Legged Woman by Freddie King, it is obvious that this groove is to be one of the recurring themes throughout the album. This 1972 track is packed with feeling strengthened by the guest Yates McKendree’s piano. But this is nothing compared to Robert Johnson’s desperate Me and The Devil Blues which is made incredibly danceable with McKendree again on the piano. Otis Rush’s All Your Love (I Miss Loving) was a heavy influence on the late Peter Green’s Black Magic Woman, but the version popularized by Santana is closer to it than that of Fleetwood Mac. It’s interesting consider how similar these tracks are. Howlin Wolf’s Down in The Bottom is a necessary reminder that Black Stone Cherry was originally a hard rock band: this interpretation immediately brings New-York band Raging Slab to mind as it treads the line between boogie and hard rock with its wild Hammond organs. Elmore James’ Early One Morning undergoes a hell of a makeover and Chris Robertson’s singing sounds strikingly like Eddie Veddie from Pearl Jam even though the music style is completely different. Their version of Death Letter Blues by Son House is similarly quirky as the song’s minimalism is done away with in favour of some typically American hard rock teeming with emotion. Six tracks that span 25 minutes: it’s short but is enough to provide you with your daily fix of hard rock. The unmistakable pleasure that Black Stone Cherry had in making these interpretations is there for all to see. A real success! © Charlélie Arnaud/Qobuz
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Rock - Released April 20, 2018 | Mascot Records

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Blues - Released September 29, 2017 | Mascot Records

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Rock - Released April 1, 2016 | Mascot Records

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Rock - Released April 1, 2016 | Mascot Records

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Rock - Released May 2, 2014 | Roadrunner Records

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When Florida Georgia Line covered Black Stone Cherry's "Stay," the single went straight to the top of the country music charts and provided some exposure for the Kentucky hard rockers outside heavy metal circles. The band's first two records -- 2006's self-titled album and 2008's Folklore and Superstition -- both possessed killer riffs and raw intensity but lacked songwriting finesse, while 2011's Between the Devil & the Deep Blue Sea went too far in the other direction. Magic Mountain assembles BSC's strengths cohesively with only a few missteps. Produced, engineered, and mixed by Joe Barresi (Melvins, Queens of the Stone Age, Chevelle), this 13-song set unabashedly reflects the band's biggest influences -- Lynyrd Skynyrd, Led Zeppelin, Cream, and vintage Whitesnake -- but places them in a 21st century post-grunge, hard rock context. The swaggering blues-metal of opener "Holding on... to Letting Go" possesses a mighty hook with sweeping guitar fills from vocalist/guitarist Chris Robertson and Ben Wells. The wah-wah guitar strut in "Bad Luck & Hard Love" is equaled only by the four-part vocal harmonies. While the single "Me and Mary Jane" may be overly obvious, the tune is irresistible because of its massive hook and its boogie quotient. Speaking of boogie, check the title track. Its twin leads, propulsive drum attack, and handclaps in the bridge make it the set's party jam. "Never Surrender" is crunchy death metal with low-tuned guitars run amok, tempered by a catchy chorus. The introductory bass throb in "Fiesta del Fuego" and its snarling vocal effects keep the nearly unhinged six-string rage inside the realm of chaos, while closer "Remember Me" is swaggering Southern hard rock tempered by flanged guitars and a pop-metal chorus. There are a couple of duds. The ballad "Sometimes" is pure filler. "Hollywood in Kentucky" sounds like it was recorded to appeal to either contemporary country radio or to be covered by other artists from the genre (its lyrics reference pickup trucks, boots, mom, good ol' boys, etc.). It doesn't belong here. These clunkers aside, Magic Mountain comes closer than any previous offering in providing the kind of excitement Black Stone Cherry generate live, and showcases their most refined songwriting to date. © Thom Jurek /TiVo
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Rock - Released July 17, 2006 | Roadrunner Records

The debut album from youthful Kentucky rockers Black Stone Cherry meanders comfortably somewhere between metal and Southern rock. Black Stone Cherry has what it takes to be considered hard rock and Southern rock. Songs with titles like "Lonely Train," "Tired of the Rain," and "Rollin' On" and their somewhat predictable lyrics land the formula of Southern rock. Heavy distortion and gritty, brooding vocals reminiscent of Godsmack's Sully Erna lay down the format for alternative metal. Black Stone Cherry does what a lot of bands in the new century of alternative metal would like to -- find a new sound. The album never gets boring and is full of great riffs and a thunderous rhythm section. Lead singer Chris Robertson's vocals are surprisingly mature and soulful and the band's lead guitar (Robertson and Ben Wells) is impressive. "Shapes of Things," a cover of the Yardbirds chestnut, is a standout on the album. The tone, the rhythm, and the vocals are unique -- and if Black Stone Cherry keeps heading in this direction, the band will surely be able to separate itself from the influx of other bands who have been riding on the post-grunge alternative metal circuit since the '90s. The same goes for "Tired of the Rain," which features some of the best guitar work on the album, from a choppy riff to blues-infused licks and solo -- it's anything but bland. The real clincher of this song, as well as with "Rollin' On," is the use of a B-3 organ from guest artist Reece Wynans. It has all the charm of nostalgia, without being boring or forced. There's no doubt that Black Stone Cherry has talent, and they are onto something. Black Stone Cherry proves the band is diverse in their influences and goals. The Southern rock twist and the occasional Merle Haggard reference are a really solid start, but at times, the album comes across as a little too generic for what the band is capable of. Black Stone Cherry has more in them than to become just another alternative metal band in the now very post-grunge era. © Megan Frye /TiVo
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Rock - Released January 1, 2011 | Roadrunner Records

Bringing huge, Southern rock riffs to the world of slick post-grunge, Black Stone Cherry bring the heavy stuff on their third album, Between the Devil & the Deep Blue Sea. If Black Stone Cherry have proven that they’re good at anything over the course of their last two albums, it’s that they know when to go big, and they do just that on the album opener, “White Trash Millionaire.” Opening with a stomping riff, the song kicks off the album on the right foot with a stomping down-home country-rock riff. Country swagger dominates the guitar work on “Let Me See You Shake,” a song that seems readymade for the strip club with its sleazy, churning riffage. It’s not all country-influenced hard rock, though, as a good chunk of the album finds the band showing off their more sensitive side with songs like “Won’t Let Go” and “Stay,” which still have some solid rock at their foundation, but lose the confident strut that Black Stone Cherry build for themselves. In a genre that's grown more and more homogeneous as its radio dominance has spread, a band like Black Stone Cherry is kind of refreshing, bringing something a little dirty and grimy to a sound that’s usually so polished, and while it’s definitely more Kid Rock than Lynyrd Skynyrd, it’s got a whole lot more country than some of their contemporaries are bringing to the table. © Gregory Heaney /TiVo
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Rock - Released January 1, 2011 | Roadrunner Records

Bringing huge, Southern rock riffs to the world of slick post-grunge, Black Stone Cherry bring the heavy stuff on their third album, Between the Devil & the Deep Blue Sea. If Black Stone Cherry have proven that they’re good at anything over the course of their last two albums, it’s that they know when to go big, and they do just that on the album opener, “White Trash Millionaire.” Opening with a stomping riff, the song kicks off the album on the right foot with a stomping down-home country-rock riff. Country swagger dominates the guitar work on “Let Me See You Shake,” a song that seems readymade for the strip club with its sleazy, churning riffage. It’s not all country-influenced hard rock, though, as a good chunk of the album finds the band showing off their more sensitive side with songs like “Won’t Let Go” and “Stay,” which still have some solid rock at their foundation, but lose the confident strut that Black Stone Cherry build for themselves. In a genre that's grown more and more homogeneous as its radio dominance has spread, a band like Black Stone Cherry is kind of refreshing, bringing something a little dirty and grimy to a sound that’s usually so polished, and while it’s definitely more Kid Rock than Lynyrd Skynyrd, it’s got a whole lot more country than some of their contemporaries are bringing to the table. © Gregory Heaney /TiVo
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Rock - Released August 16, 2008 | Roadrunner Records

For all its spirited, hard-hitting performances and wide-eyed country boy attitude, Black Stone Cherry's eponymous debut still gave off a faintly fishy smell of new millennium corporate rock, with certain icy guitar tones and aluminum-plated vocal textures sounding more like Nickelback or Shinedown than honest-to-goodness Southern rock. Even so, the band's natural songwriting instincts and overall precociousness (all four were barely past the age of twenty at the time) were enough to convince most listeners that BSC's hearts were in the right place, and that perhaps it was only a matter of time and experience before their legitimate Kentucky roots rose to the surface. Those hopes are satisfied, in part, by 2008's sophomore release, Folklore and Superstition, which sure feels more like a product of the band's own creative viewpoint (as opposed to their handlers'), but doesn't quite fulfill the earthy, Southern rock promises made by its title and accompanying swamp-and-moonshine CD art. If anything, Folklore and Superstition's production (courtesy of the experienced Bob Marlette -- Alice Cooper, Saliva, etc.) might be cleaner and sleeker than its predecessor's, pushing crisp melodies and anthemic choruses -- not to mention rather startling background gang-vocals -- to the fore on fist-pumping singles candidates like "Blind Man" and "Soulcreek," plus more romantic fare like the memorable "Please Come In." But the group is also keen to take more chances here: whether that means quoting the Beatles' "Come Together" during "Reverend Wrinkle," layering nifty organs and slide guitars onto "Devil's Queen," injecting a reggae groove into "Sunrise," or trying to write their own "Freebird" or "Simple Man" via blues-tinged, part-acoustic ballads like "Peace Is Free" and "You." The experiments don't always work, of course, and sometimes breed frustratingly mixed results (as on "Things My Father Said," which mars an unprecedented piano part and truly heartfelt tribute with some childishly cornball lyrics), but at least the band is following their own muse. And that's why philosophically polar opposites like "The Bitter End" -- a tough-nut heavy rock throwback to their first album -- and "Ghost of Floyd Collins" -- here, at last, a promising glimpse of the group's growing connection to their Southern heritage -- can both qualify as album highlights. Make no mistake, Black Stone Cherry's sound still owes as much to Alice in Chains and their infamous disciples cited above (see the dirge riffs used on weak links "Long Sleeves" and "The Keys") as it does to Molly Hatchet; and their formerly razor sharp hard rock focus has been diluted somewhat in order to accommodate their ever expanding compositional toolkit. But Folklore and Superstition, imperfect as it may be, nevertheless feels like a step in the right direction for the Kentucky quartet, who simply need to keep on following their hearts, stop letting those damn Yankees polish up their records, and they'll be bound to find their inner Skynyrd. © Eduardo Rivadavia /TiVo
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Rock - Released July 17, 2006 | Roadrunner Records

The debut album from youthful Kentucky rockers Black Stone Cherry meanders comfortably somewhere between metal and Southern rock. Black Stone Cherry has what it takes to be considered hard rock and Southern rock. Songs with titles like "Lonely Train," "Tired of the Rain," and "Rollin' On" and their somewhat predictable lyrics land the formula of Southern rock. Heavy distortion and gritty, brooding vocals reminiscent of Godsmack's Sully Erna lay down the format for alternative metal. Black Stone Cherry does what a lot of bands in the new century of alternative metal would like to -- find a new sound. The album never gets boring and is full of great riffs and a thunderous rhythm section. Lead singer Chris Robertson's vocals are surprisingly mature and soulful and the band's lead guitar (Robertson and Ben Wells) is impressive. "Shapes of Things," a cover of the Yardbirds chestnut, is a standout on the album. The tone, the rhythm, and the vocals are unique -- and if Black Stone Cherry keeps heading in this direction, the band will surely be able to separate itself from the influx of other bands who have been riding on the post-grunge alternative metal circuit since the '90s. The same goes for "Tired of the Rain," which features some of the best guitar work on the album, from a choppy riff to blues-infused licks and solo -- it's anything but bland. The real clincher of this song, as well as with "Rollin' On," is the use of a B-3 organ from guest artist Reece Wynans. It has all the charm of nostalgia, without being boring or forced. There's no doubt that Black Stone Cherry has talent, and they are onto something. Black Stone Cherry proves the band is diverse in their influences and goals. The Southern rock twist and the occasional Merle Haggard reference are a really solid start, but at times, the album comes across as a little too generic for what the band is capable of. Black Stone Cherry has more in them than to become just another alternative metal band in the now very post-grunge era. © Megan Frye /TiVo
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Rock - Released April 20, 2018 | Mascot Records

The rowdy, retro-rockers' third release in two years, Family Tree delivers a loose but punchy set of crispy Deep South confections that radiate both swagger and soul. The follow-up to 2016's full-length Kentucky and 2017's covers EP Black to Blues, the 13-track set administers copious amounts of greasy Southern rock riffage, and like its predecessor, it was self-produced and tracked at Barrick Recording in Glasgow, Kentucky -- the band recorded their eponymous debut there in 2006. Freed from the constraints of a major label, Kentucky saw Black Stone Cherry returning to their roots, and Family Tree is a like-minded beast, drawing as much from Memphis soul as it does from the boogie-blasted sweet spot between ZZ Top and David Lee Roth-era Van Halen. The latter disposition looms large throughout, with the one-two punch of lead singles "Bad Habit" and "Burnin'" piling on the muscle and aiming for the nosebleed seats, but "My Last Breath", with its breezy electric piano, Stax-inspired brass, and heartfelt lyrics aimed at loved ones both here and departed, feels better suited for a Bloody Mary-heavy Gospel brunch. Elsewhere, "Ain't Nobody" staggers, shimmies, and shakes with all the bluesy bravado of Led Zeppelin's "Custard Pie, while "Southern Fried Saturday Night," with its snarling talk-box lead and good-time country boy grandstanding, feels like a stadium-sized Tim McGraw jam performed by Alice in Chains. Despite some subtle shifts in tone, the rest of Family Tree follows suit, doling out the decibels and hard rock tropes with workmanlike precision, while maintaining a homespun sense of community that appeals to anybody who has put in a full week, and just wants to let some air out of their tires. © James Christopher Monger /TiVo
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Rock - Released May 2, 2014 | Roadrunner Records

When Florida Georgia Line covered Black Stone Cherry's "Stay," the single went straight to the top of the country music charts and provided some exposure for the Kentucky hard rockers outside heavy metal circles. The band's first two records -- 2006's self-titled album and 2008's Folklore and Superstition -- both possessed killer riffs and raw intensity but lacked songwriting finesse, while 2011's Between the Devil & the Deep Blue Sea went too far in the other direction. Magic Mountain assembles BSC's strengths cohesively with only a few missteps. Produced, engineered, and mixed by Joe Barresi (Melvins, Queens of the Stone Age, Chevelle), this 13-song set unabashedly reflects the band's biggest influences -- Lynyrd Skynyrd, Led Zeppelin, Cream, and vintage Whitesnake -- but places them in a 21st century post-grunge, hard rock context. The swaggering blues-metal of opener "Holding on... to Letting Go" possesses a mighty hook with sweeping guitar fills from vocalist/guitarist Chris Robertson and Ben Wells. The wah-wah guitar strut in "Bad Luck & Hard Love" is equaled only by the four-part vocal harmonies. While the single "Me and Mary Jane" may be overly obvious, the tune is irresistible because of its massive hook and its boogie quotient. Speaking of boogie, check the title track. Its twin leads, propulsive drum attack, and handclaps in the bridge make it the set's party jam. "Never Surrender" is crunchy death metal with low-tuned guitars run amok, tempered by a catchy chorus. The introductory bass throb in "Fiesta del Fuego" and its snarling vocal effects keep the nearly unhinged six-string rage inside the realm of chaos, while closer "Remember Me" is swaggering Southern hard rock tempered by flanged guitars and a pop-metal chorus. There are a couple of duds. The ballad "Sometimes" is pure filler. "Hollywood in Kentucky" sounds like it was recorded to appeal to either contemporary country radio or to be covered by other artists from the genre (its lyrics reference pickup trucks, boots, mom, good ol' boys, etc.). It doesn't belong here. These clunkers aside, Magic Mountain comes closer than any previous offering in providing the kind of excitement Black Stone Cherry generate live, and showcases their most refined songwriting to date. © Thom Jurek /TiVo
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Blues - Released September 29, 2017 | Mascot Records

At first glance, it's tempting to consider Black Stone Cherry's Back to Blues EP a stopgap after the runaway success of 2016's Kentucky. That album landed in the Top 40 in the States, and at number five on the U.K.'s album charts, placed in the high reaches of streaming and download lists. Upon hearing this six-track set of classic blues covers, it becomes clear that the word "back" means that the blues has always been at the heart of BSC's sound. It also means "back" in the sense that blues were once a de rigueur, inseparable part of hard rock's history. Recorded at David Barrick's studio -- the same place where Kentucky was tracked -- these six songs were cut in two days to capture their immediacy and rawness as seen through the band's '70s-inspired hard attack. Set opener "Built for Comfort" penned by Willie Dixon (who wrote half the songs here) is closely associated with Howlin' Wolf. After a brief piano intro, the track becomes an exercise in writhing chug, with its enormous riff paving the way for swaggering, snaky boogie. The placement of a dirty, funky clavinet in the mix just behind the guitars and the rumbling one-note bassline are a nice touch, too. The weaving of swampy slide guitar and harmonica in Muddy Waters' "Champagne and Reefer" is followed by a hoary blues-metal vamp. Its groove is nasty and unbelievably heavy; it could almost pass for a BSC original. "Palace of the King" is one of Freddie King's anthem. Co-penned by Donald "Duck" Dunn and Leon Russell, the band's take is pure bombastic choogle, boasting razor-sharp lead guitar fills and a Bonnie Bramlett-esque backing female vocal chorus (courtesy of Andrea Tanaro). It takes stones to cover Dixon's "Hoochie Coochie Man" in the 21st century. BSC deliver it with relish as a slow-burning, metal boogie complete with quaking horns, Ben Wells' stinging guitar, and whomping kick drum. "Born Under a Bad Sign" was a hit for Albert King and is a staple in electric blues, having been covered by dozens of artists including Cream, Peter Green's Fleetwood Mac, and Rita Coolidge. BSC's homage to King acknowledges the Southern R&B at the tune's heart (it was composed by Booker T. Jones and William Bell) but owes as much to Free and Humble Pie in its presentation as King's scorching blues. Funky horn breaks shore up Chris Robertson's growling vocal while massive hard-rock riffing claims the foreground. Dixon's "I Want to Be loved" is done roadhouse style. Its stomp and whomp are all raucous joy set alight by screaming, house-rocking guitars, a pounding Otis Spann-esque piano, and squalling harmonica. Back to Blues doesn't come off as a stopgap at all; it puts on a peacock's display of all of BSC's strengths while offering a fresh take on the music that inspired generations of rockers. © Thom Jurek /TiVo
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Rock - Released April 1, 2016 | Mascot Records

Sometimes you need to look back in order to move forward. While Black Stone Cherry have had increasing chart success -- 2014's Magic Mountain hit number five on the U.K. charts and number 22 in the U.S. -- the band felt a lack of creative control over their recordings. To that end, they left Roadrunner Records and signed to Mascot, run by Ron Burman (the man who signed them to Roadrunner in the first place). Earlier Black Stone Cherry albums were always imbalanced: songwriting was sometimes sacrificed in an attempt to replicate the band's live sound; at other times, it was the reverse. Kentucky is a self-produced, back-to-the-roots affair (with participation from a host of local players and singers). Opener "The Way of the Future" walks the line between gnarly, riff-tastic hard rock and heavy metal. Frontman/guitarist Chris Robertson's rant against greedy politicians is fueled by his and Ben Wells' twin-guitar attack, grooving tom-tom, kickdrum fills from John Fred Young, and a fuzzed-out, Geezer Butler-esque bassline from Jon Lawhon. The two proceeding tracks, "In Our Dreams" and "Shakin' My Cage," are equally bone-crunching. The gears shift on "Soul Machine." It blends greasy Southern-fried funk and adrenalin-fueled blues-rock, with Robertson backed by Stax-style vocalists Sandra and Tonya Dye. Black Stone Cherry can still write killer hooks, too: "Long Ride" is a power ballad in classic '70s rock fashion, complete with a rousing anthemic chorus and melodic guitar fills by Wells. The band updates Edwin Starr's psychedelic soul classic "War" with fat baritone saxophone, brass, dirty, in-the-red distorted guitars, and a large backing chorus. Robertson's vocal is filled with righteous indignation as the band swells toward volcanic eruption. The vintage Southern rock vibe on "Cheaper to Drink Alone" is classic BSC, but it's steeped in such a catchy melody, it will likely be covered by harder, edgier contemporary country acts. Wells' guitar break is one of his meatiest on record. "Hangman" is steeped in squalling, hard-riffing blues with a hooky chorus, while "Rescue Me," despite its brief gospelized intro, is the meanest, leanest thing on the set. The groove-centric intro of "Feelin' Fuzzy" gives way to a funky backbeat with guitars on stun. The latter album track "Darkest Secret" helps close the album circle with off-the-rails metallic hard rock (complete with a Black Sabbath-style breakdown), though the chorus is drenched in Southern groove. Kentucky marks the first time BSC have balanced all of their writing strengths with their concert presence. The album is a grower. After a listen or two, Black Stone Cherry's back-to-the-cradle approach proves that track for track, Kentucky is not only more consistent, but more satisfying than previous albums. © Thom Jurek /TiVo
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Rock - Released August 16, 2008 | Roadrunner Records

For all its spirited, hard-hitting performances and wide-eyed country boy attitude, Black Stone Cherry's eponymous debut still gave off a faintly fishy smell of new millennium corporate rock, with certain icy guitar tones and aluminum-plated vocal textures sounding more like Nickelback or Shinedown than honest-to-goodness Southern rock. Even so, the band's natural songwriting instincts and overall precociousness (all four were barely past the age of twenty at the time) were enough to convince most listeners that BSC's hearts were in the right place, and that perhaps it was only a matter of time and experience before their legitimate Kentucky roots rose to the surface. Those hopes are satisfied, in part, by 2008's sophomore release, Folklore and Superstition, which sure feels more like a product of the band's own creative viewpoint (as opposed to their handlers'), but doesn't quite fulfill the earthy, Southern rock promises made by its title and accompanying swamp-and-moonshine CD art. If anything, Folklore and Superstition's production (courtesy of the experienced Bob Marlette -- Alice Cooper, Saliva, etc.) might be cleaner and sleeker than its predecessor's, pushing crisp melodies and anthemic choruses -- not to mention rather startling background gang-vocals -- to the fore on fist-pumping singles candidates like "Blind Man" and "Soulcreek," plus more romantic fare like the memorable "Please Come In." But the group is also keen to take more chances here: whether that means quoting the Beatles' "Come Together" during "Reverend Wrinkle," layering nifty organs and slide guitars onto "Devil's Queen," injecting a reggae groove into "Sunrise," or trying to write their own "Freebird" or "Simple Man" via blues-tinged, part-acoustic ballads like "Peace Is Free" and "You." The experiments don't always work, of course, and sometimes breed frustratingly mixed results (as on "Things My Father Said," which mars an unprecedented piano part and truly heartfelt tribute with some childishly cornball lyrics), but at least the band is following their own muse. And that's why philosophically polar opposites like "The Bitter End" -- a tough-nut heavy rock throwback to their first album -- and "Ghost of Floyd Collins" -- here, at last, a promising glimpse of the group's growing connection to their Southern heritage -- can both qualify as album highlights. Make no mistake, Black Stone Cherry's sound still owes as much to Alice in Chains and their infamous disciples cited above (see the dirge riffs used on weak links "Long Sleeves" and "The Keys") as it does to Molly Hatchet; and their formerly razor sharp hard rock focus has been diluted somewhat in order to accommodate their ever expanding compositional toolkit. But Folklore and Superstition, imperfect as it may be, nevertheless feels like a step in the right direction for the Kentucky quartet, who simply need to keep on following their hearts, stop letting those damn Yankees polish up their records, and they'll be bound to find their inner Skynyrd. © Eduardo Rivadavia /TiVo
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Rock - Released November 25, 2016 | Mascot Records

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Rock - Released April 1, 2016 | Mascot Records

Sometimes you need to look back in order to move forward. While Black Stone Cherry have had increasing chart success -- 2014's Magic Mountain hit number five on the U.K. charts and number 22 in the U.S. -- the band felt a lack of creative control over their recordings. To that end, they left Roadrunner Records and signed to Mascot, run by Ron Burman (the man who signed them to Roadrunner in the first place). Earlier Black Stone Cherry albums were always imbalanced: songwriting was sometimes sacrificed in an attempt to replicate the band's live sound; at other times, it was the reverse. Kentucky is a self-produced, back-to-the-roots affair (with participation from a host of local players and singers). Opener "The Way of the Future" walks the line between gnarly, riff-tastic hard rock and heavy metal. Frontman/guitarist Chris Robertson's rant against greedy politicians is fueled by his and Ben Wells' twin-guitar attack, grooving tom-tom, kickdrum fills from John Fred Young, and a fuzzed-out, Geezer Butler-esque bassline from Jon Lawhon. The two proceeding tracks, "In Our Dreams" and "Shakin' My Cage," are equally bone-crunching. The gears shift on "Soul Machine." It blends greasy Southern-fried funk and adrenalin-fueled blues-rock, with Robertson backed by Stax-style vocalists Sandra and Tonya Dye. Black Stone Cherry can still write killer hooks, too: "Long Ride" is a power ballad in classic '70s rock fashion, complete with a rousing anthemic chorus and melodic guitar fills by Wells. The band updates Edwin Starr's psychedelic soul classic "War" with fat baritone saxophone, brass, dirty, in-the-red distorted guitars, and a large backing chorus. Robertson's vocal is filled with righteous indignation as the band swells toward volcanic eruption. The vintage Southern rock vibe on "Cheaper to Drink Alone" is classic BSC, but it's steeped in such a catchy melody, it will likely be covered by harder, edgier contemporary country acts. Wells' guitar break is one of his meatiest on record. "Hangman" is steeped in squalling, hard-riffing blues with a hooky chorus, while "Rescue Me," despite its brief gospelized intro, is the meanest, leanest thing on the set. The groove-centric intro of "Feelin' Fuzzy" gives way to a funky backbeat with guitars on stun. The latter album track "Darkest Secret" helps close the album circle with off-the-rails metallic hard rock (complete with a Black Sabbath-style breakdown), though the chorus is drenched in Southern groove. Kentucky marks the first time BSC have balanced all of their writing strengths with their concert presence. The album is a grower. After a listen or two, Black Stone Cherry's back-to-the-cradle approach proves that track for track, Kentucky is not only more consistent, but more satisfying than previous albums. © Thom Jurek /TiVo
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Rock - Released February 25, 2014 | Roadrunner Records