Review: Black Stone Cherry – ‘Black To Blues EP’

According to Muddy Waters, “The blues had a baby and they named it rock & roll”, and we all know what the bastard offspring of rock & roll was, don’t we. Interestingly, Waters also said “Well I can see I was born to lose”, three little words on patches on biker jackets everywhere or tattooed across numerous hands in grainy indian ink; born to lose. Rock, and in turn, metal, owes so much to the blues that at one point it was de rigueur for bands to release a blues album, more often or not as a palate cleanser. Aerosmith, for example, followed up the highly polished and quite unmemorable ‘Just Push Play’ with the exquisite ‘Honkin’ On Bobo’, a stunning collection of blues covers. Even today, one of the main highlights of an Aerosmith set is the blues jam in the middle where Joe Perry takes the mic for an incredible cover of ‘Oh Well’. Black Stone Cherry have been blues influenced from day one. Remember their blistering debut album and the Yardbirds cover, ‘Shapes Of Things’? Live sets will usually feature a blues chestnut or two, and after getting their mojo back on last years ‘Kentucky’ album, the time is right to strike while the iron is semi-hot. Hell, they are out on the road in America with ZZ Top right now, alongside Mr Billy Gibbons. Now if that doesn’t bolster their blues credentials, nothing will. The cover of ‘Shapes Of Things’ is a good idea of what to expect on this six track EP. Blues done Black Stone Cherry style. The guitars are front and centre, and no toning down the grit either. Listen to vocalist/guitarist Chris Robertson introduce “Brother Ben on the guitar” during a hellacious version of the Howlin’ Wolf classic ‘Built For Comfort’, and just sit back and lap it up. After “Brother Ben” (Ben Wells, guitarist and he-who-cannot-stand-still-on stage) wails for a few moments, Robertson takes over by saying “Let me talk at you with this guitar”, and follows this with a quiet, retrospective solo. As John Fred Young (otherwise known as “Animal”) brings the band back in with help from brother Jon Lawhon on the bass, the familiar Black Stone Cherry sound appears. This continues into ‘Champagne & Reefer’, performed originally by Muddy Waters, but recently covered by the Rolling Stones. Harder, heavier, and faster than the original, it’s way beefier, and perhaps the closest to what you might consider a typical Black Stone Cherry track. The harmonica in the background, as the band launch into a beast of a jam, is particularly effective in creating a “blues vibe”. Running it a close second for a trademark Black Stone Cherry sound is the drum-heavy version of Freddie Kings’ ‘Palace Of The King’. Young cements his reputation as one of the best hard rock drummers out there, and remains a drummer of immense power. ‘Hoochie Coochie Man’ is perhaps a song that even those with a limited familiarity of blues music will recognise. Written by Willie Dixon, and made famous by Muddy Waters, it is a true blues staple. The Kentuckians give it a shot in the arm with some added attitude. From the revered Stax Records stable, ‘Born Under A Bad Sign’ was written for Albert King, and here it gets updated into a sassy, streetwise version, that has some heavy, heavy guitar on it. The last track on the EP is a stunning version of ‘I Want To Be Loved’, another Willie Dixon composition, covered by both Muddy Waters and The Rolling Stones. It doesn’t hang around for a long time, but it does leave an impression that’s for sure. The hair-raising guitar solos see to that. Blues music has a lot of purists, not as much as jazz (but that’s jazz for you), so some might scoff at Black Stone Cherry adding their own touches to classic blues tracks, but if just one person hears this EP and goes and checks out any of the blues greats covered, then surely that can be considered a success? ‘Black To Blues EP’ is available September 29th through Mascot Label Group. Review: Dave Stott]]>

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