Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Black Stone Cherry - Between the Devil and the Deep Blue Sea

You know that great feeling you get when you discover a new band that you think you're really going to like?  Well, I had that after hearing Black Stone Cherry's Lonely Train for the first time a few years ago - it is a truly kick-ass rock song.

See, what I love about these good ole Kentucky boys is that they tip their hat to the old while ushering in the new.  You can hear the influence of the Black Crowes, Led Zeppelin and Lynyrd Skynyrd.  But then you can also hear them putting an almost-metal spin on some of those influences, throwing in some wall-of-sound style riffs and some hellacious wah-solos (see the above at 2:20).

Not everything they've written is as good as Lonely Train, of course, but it should give you some idea.

Anyway, The Devil and the Deep Blue Sea is Black Stone Cherry's third album, after their hard-rockin' self-titled debut, and follow-up Folklore and Superstition which took a similar direct approach but added in a few ballads too.

At this point I should add that I generally don't like it when BSC do ballads.  Their efforts aren't bad songs per se, but unfortunately they smack a little of Nickelback-style radio rock.  This is a band that is undoubtedly at their best when are in full-on beer-drinking and hell-raising mode.  Or bourbon-drinking, for that matter - they are from Kentucky after all.

And in that regard, Between the Devil and the Deep Blue Sea largely plays to their strengths.  I mean, I don't know if they were drinking a lot of bourbon when they recorded it but the ass-kicking intent is certainly there.  Most of the record is a riffing, grooving, hard-hitting effort loaded with air-guitar solos.  By this I mean actual solos that demand playing of air-guitar.  Not solos actually played on an air-guitar (which often prove hard to hear).

The tracks that immediately jump out are lead single and album opener White Trash Millionaire (opening lyric: "I got a Trans Am in primer paint") and Blame it on the Boom Boom (you'll thank me for not spoiling the hilarious lyrics on this one for you).   The former showcases pretty much everything that is great about this band.  And on the topic of the vocals, after watching the video below, I've come to the conclusion that babyface Chris Robinson looks nothing like his voice sounds.

And what a cool voice Robinson does have - massive power but a ton of soul as well and a distinctive Southern flavour.  The only other singer I've ever heard with quite the same qualities was former Brand New Sin singer Joe Altier.

My personal favourite track at the moment is Killing Floor, which has some heavy Alice in Chains influences and uses voicebox effects to create a particularly savage guitar sound that would scare the shit out of Peter Frampton.  Combine this with a huge groove, and some sneaky NIN-esque treatments on the backing vocals and you have a massive track (albeit one with some very nice attention to detail too).  Even if the sound engineer is pouring more fuel on the fire of the Loudness Wars.

There are songs that will make you tap your feet (In My Blood).  There are songs that will make you bang your head (Let Me See You Shake).  There are some reasonably blatant (and slightly forgettable) radio moments in the middle - Won't Let Go and Like I Roll.  But then there is also the immaculately written Stay, which is both radio-friendly and a very good song (and a worthy exception to my general rule that this - or any? - band should avoid radio-friendly songs).

Sure, its an album of reasonably straightforward three to four-minute rock songs.  But that's part of its appeal too - honest, gutsy, straight-up hard rock.  Nothing pretentious or showy, just four Kentucky dudes throwing it down and doing a damn good job of it too for the most part.

Anyway, you can check it out for yourself too because the whole album can be streamed here.

No comments: