Review Summary: An inferior release by a superior band. Perfectly enjoyable, but drastically under-achieving - listen to the first two albums absolutely to death before you touch this.
Oh Black Stone Cherry, why does it have to be this way? Do you remember how things used to be? Black Stone Cherry
successfully updated the Blakfoot sound, merging the weighty power of Black Sabbath with the down-to-earth poetry of Lynyrd Skynyrd. The love songs had a bluesy muscle and the rockers were more than one-dimensional. Folklore and Superstition
made excellent use of an upgraded production, tooling the band up to sound like real 21st Century Southern rock/metal, using this new podium to express melancholy thoughts about war and loss, mixed with hope and a gaze to a better future.
Few bands have fans as fanatically loyal as Black Stone Cherry’s UK fanbase, who gravitated towards the “honesty” a regional accent tends to give, which an American band can pull off – regional-sounding artists from Britain are often perceived as simpletons by British rockers. Naturally, this album has been lapped up as if it is the best thing since sliced bread. I, however, had had apprehensions, having recently seen the band playing a song from the special edition reissue of their second album, encouraging fans to re-purchase an album they already owned. Black Stone Cherry gigs are meant to be about big sing-a-longs, but that number silenced the crowd. I sniffed money-hungry sellouts, and sadly, this album confirms my concerns, offering a watered down pop version of Black Stone Cherry’s usually potent sound. Like watching Céline Dion and Anastasia “rock out” to “You Shook Me All Night Long” ( [url]http://tinyurl.com/acdcgirls[/url] ), this album is a phoney, artificial impersonation of a heartfelt, meaningful Black Stone Cherry album.
In the album’s defence, the band, pop metal producer Howard Benson and their squad of hired songwriters have done a fairly good job approximating the BSC sound, and there are two gems in here. “Such A Shame” is a scary look into the life of a fallen angel of a girl, forced to strip for a living – such honesty about the painful truth of a male-dominated society have not been heard in something so mainstream since Aerosmith’s “Janie’s Got A Gun”. “Like I Roll” is a genuinely uplifting song about a simple travelling life, with a car that could quite possibly be the one from the band’s hit “Things My Father Said” – it makes for a nice sequel.
That’s it for quality though, with the album’s three worst cuts suffering from truly shambolic song-writing. ”White Trash Millionaire” tries so hard to be a big, bombastic rocker, but fails to realise a band’s “rocking-est” song is not by default the loudest and fastest, and tries too hard. “Let Me See You Shake” and “Blame it on the Boom Boom” are simply the most bone-headedly stupid works this side of Limp Bizkit. At least Fred Durst sounds like he means it – this band doesn’t, stupid cock rock is simply not their forte.
Between the Devil and the Deep Blue Sea
only has a few truly terrible moments, but it finds ways to render their best ideas useless. “In My Blood” for instance, is a great song about the advantages and disadvantages to a nomadic spirit, tarnished by a vocal effect on the chorus and a severely neutered guitar solo, dragging the song into Nickelback territory. “All I’m Dreamin’ Of” tries to conjure retro, folky imagery, but the illusion is shattered by the sterile, over-compressed production.
The remaining four songs are simply generic radio rock, far more derivative than what this band is capable of. Cliché, simpleton lyrics, un-dynamic arrangements, compressed “loud” audio, silly vocal effects, neutered guitar solos – “Killing Floor” could have been the band’s heaviest song if it hadn’t been so tampered with by the production team, for instance. Drummer John Fred Young is the single worst contributor here, sounding so characterless across the album that it is hard to believe it is the same mighty powerhouse that has always stood out from the crowd in the past.
There’s a time and a place in my life for bands like Hinder and Theory of a Deadman. They are simple pleasures, enjoyable when I am not looking for anything deep, just a simple pop hook and a catchy chorus. BSC were better than that, though. They don’t even execute the new sound effectively – at least Hinder are utterly convinced their melodramatic lyrics mattered! A complete lack of passion - replaced with calculation – pervades the entire album bar its two best songs.
Any other band would get a 3/5 for this - for offering up a definitively bog-standard release saved by two standout moments. But BSC are receiving 2/5 for this – because it hurts to see how the mighty have fallen so far from their perch.