I’ve been blessed to cover an amazing array of bands and artists over the last eight years or so. I’ve also worked with just as many as a talent buyer. As I look back at the body of my work, there is one band that has always been a constant. That band is Edmonton, Kentucky’s Black Stone Cherry.
From booking shows, to creating graphics and posters, to covering the band on just about every Kentucky home show, I’ve given a lot to “fight the good fight” for these fellas. There’s a reason for that, and it’s likely not what you’re thinking.
The obvious answer is their music. Yet, while that’s certainly a large contributing factor, it’s their collective character that continues to compel me to focus on the band. I have never met a fan, a fellow musician, a publicist, a promoter anyone say a bad word about the fellas in Black Stone Cherry.
Do I love their music? Absolutely. Am I blinded by our friendship? I certainly don’t think so. In fact, our friendship puts them under an even bigger microscope than most. I’ve likely seen upwards of 30 shows over the years. Ya know what? I’m yet to see a show that has disappointed. That’s not something I can say about very many bands or artists.
Having said that, when their publicist reached out to me to review the album, we both agreed that it’s a no-brainer that I’d review their new album. That new album, ‘The Human Condition’, is why we’re all here today, so let’s discuss a few highlights and hopefully, you’ll be intrigued enough to give it a listen for yourselves.
The first two tracks happen to be the first two singles. “Ringin’ In Your Head” and “Again” are exactly what we’ve all come to expect from the BSC fellas. Great structure, hooks galore, tremendous harmonies, blistering solos, served with a dose of heaviness that all add up to the 11 herbs and spices for their brand of Southern-fried rock and roll.
One of the heavier riffs of the album slam into us with “Push Down & Turn,” before “When Angels Learn To Fly” elevates this album to an entirely new level.
Those are both tremendous, but my next stopping point for you is “Live This Way.” Why? Glad you asked. “Live This Way” captures an absolute perfect snapshot of what Black Stone Cherry has grown into. You’ll find one of my personal favorite solos on the record, but more importantly, you’ll experience John Fred Young at his absolute best. If you’re able to separate sounds and focus on them individually, my wife can not, concentrate solely on the fills, rolls, transitions and rack work. It’s an absolute clinic and ridiculous in every possible good way.
“In Love With The Pain” is a track that has radio hit written all over it. The hooks are massive and the guitar tones conjure up some of the best that rock and roll has ever offered up. See for yourself!
I want to skip ahead a bit, because I just can’t wait to talk about one specific song. That song is, “If My Heart Had Wings.” Black Stone Cherry have never been afraid of writing a ballad. In fact, that’s one of my favorite things about this band.
“Hell And High Water”, “Things My Father Said”, “Peace Is Free”, “Stay”, “Sometimes,”The Rambler”, “My Last Breath”, and several others have set a precedence that the band understands the power held within an emotional song.
In my opinion, with “If My Heart Had Wings”, you have the crown jewel of ‘The Human Condition.’ If you want to immediately find your anchor, your starting point, your well of longevity for this record, this is it. “If My Heart Had Wings” is one of the most well-crafted songs you will ever find. I don’t mean that as limited to just Black Stone Cherry songs, I mean that as in the history of music. Absolute perfection in my humble opinion.
That sets the table for a second tradition from the band, a cover song. The funny thing is, even if Black Stone Cherry performs a song note for note, it STILL sounds like a Black Stone Cherry song. I don’t know how, but it’s true. For this record, the fellas settled on covering a classic from E.L.O., or Electric Light Orchestra if you aren’t familiar. “Don’t Bring Me Down” is yet another feather in the cap, or tool in their tool belt at their disposal. It’s just so much dang fun!!
“The Devil In Your Eyes” is a personal favorite as well, but I want to wrap this article up with “Keep On Keepin’ On.” I’ve struggled with depression my entire life and that’s a well documented struggle that vocalist Chris Robertson has also battled. There is a lyric that I want to point out that can only be written by someone who knows depression. It’s very simple, but it’s incredibly useful and I know that someone, somewhere needs to hear it. The lyric simply states this, “Everyday I fight another battle / I’ve got the scars to prove that I can heal” Believing in and loving yourself is the hardest part depression, and sometimes something as simple as a scar can bring you courage.
So Chris, if you read this, thank you.
‘The Human Condition’ is a definite think piece, but I’m not here to interpret and rehash lyrics or intent. That’s the purpose of art. To feel a connection to another human being. Knowing you simply aren’t alone in this world.
My advice for this record? Turn it on, turn it up, and let it go. Escape from this awful year and immerse yourself in one helluva rock and roll roller coaster.