Review Summary: Oh, how the mighty have fallen.
There was trouble from the start with Black Stone Cherry’s latest release, Between the Devil and the Deep Blue Sea.
When lead single “White Trash Millionaire” was released, I know I am not the only one who can say I felt disappointed. The song was good, don’t get me wrong-it was a fun, sing-along hard rock/southern rock crossbreed with an excellent guitar solo, just like Black Stone Cherry’s older songs. But there was something wrong. The songwriting wasn’t as good. The southern flair was being drowned out by what smelt suspiciously like the foul stench of mainstream rock. All hope was not shattered, however. This was Black Stone Cherry, after all, and, hey, just because the lead single was no “Blind Man” or “Lonely Train” this time around, surely the album would live up to the standards this wonderfully Southern, old-school, down-to-Earth band had created so effortlessly before, right?
Unfortunately, wrong. Between the Devil…
is a strange little album. It sits awkwardly between radio rock and the big, sing-along Southern hard rock this band built their oh-so-loyal fan base on. It switches between dark and optimistic, mature and immature, and, to be quite frank, good and mediocre, seemingly every track. It feels like Black Stone Cherry weren’t really sure what to do with the album. Or maybe they had a perfectly clear vision of what they wanted, which was blurred and ultimately slaughtered when their label forced them to work with other writers-which could be the reason this album turned out so much more mainstream than the rest of their work.
Nevertheless, Between the Devil…
is not a complete flop by any means. It’s still a good album with its fair share of great tracks, as well as unfortunately mediocre slumps too. “Like I Roll” is one of the former, a throwback to the good ol’ days-it’s a great optimistic, mid-tempo, sing-along Southern rock song with a brilliant guitar solo pulled off perfectly by Chris Robertson-nothing less than a wonderful summer anthem. Lead single “White Trash Millionaire” and the irresistibly fun “Blame It on the Boom Boom,” with its outstanding guitar work, are good tracks too. But the pick of the bunch here has to be “Such a Shame.” It’s a decidedly heavy-hearted, darker song, showing Black Stone Cherry’s mature side. It’s a tragic tale of the loss of a young girl who is forced to strip for money and ends up hanging herself, backed up with strong drums (a surprising rarity on this album) and more great guitar work.
Unfortunately, the album is held back by mediocre radio-rock ballads such as “Stay,” “In My Blood” and “Won’t Let Go” (the last of which is surprisingly annoying), the immature and frankly stupid “Let Me See You Shake” (with lyrics that completely contradict those of “Such a Shame”), that I will never be able to enjoy despite the amazing guitar solo, and average rockers “Killing Floor” and “Change.”
To put it simply-what happened to this band? Was it the writers they worked with that slaughtered their work? If so, let this be a message to their label-this band is far better off writing by themselves. The extra “help” from outside writers has pushed them from their perch high above the rest of the crowd down into mediocrity. Let’s just hope they go back to their roots next time around. In the meantime, Folklore and Superstition