Review Summary: Black Stone Cherry tumbles down the mountain...
Let's get this out of the way: Black Stone Cherry has been declining with every release.
Indeed, Black Stone Cherry's 2006 self-titled debut hit like a freight train. The heavy southern rock sound they had was genuinely engaging, and the lyrics were a step above most bands of their ilk. The follow-up, "Folklore & Superstition", was more of the same, but didn't feel as immediate (and also felt a little overlong to these ears). However, "Between The Devil & The Deep Blue Sea" was the first real mistep in Black Stone Cherry's career. With BTD&TDBS, Black Stone Cherry "sold out", to use a favorite term of music fans. They went from being a great southern rock band to being just another radio rock band. Now, with their fourth album, Magic Mountain, BSC continues their gradual decline.
Musically, they are a lot closer to their first two albums with Magic Mountain. But, familiar song structures and asinine lyrics hold them back. In fact, some of the lyrics on Magic Mountain are just down-right offensive. The biggest offender is the awful country ballad "Hollywood In Kentucky." The lines I'm pointing to is this delightful salvo, "You'd open up the truck door takin' out your lover, She might be your cousin but she wouldn't be your brother." Managing to serve up a southern stereotype about incest AND insulting gay people" Nice one dudes! Really, "Hollywood In Kentucky" is so riddled with nutball Republican bull*** that it's surprising that Chris Robinson didn't just send the lyrics off to Madison Rising for them to use. It's really quite shocking how a band can go from writing decent lyrics about anti-war (Peace Pipe) and then dredge up stupid lyrics about pot smoking (Me & Mary Jane) before going sexist on us (Dance Girl). Bonus points: bonus track "Revolutionize" begins with a piece of conservative paranoia ("Here's what wrong with the world today, they tried to take God and our guns away") and gets worse from there. Based on the lyrics alone, I felt I had no choice but to drop this down from a 3 to a 2.
Sonically, Black Stone Cherry are still decent songwriters, when they're not ripping off their own discography. "Bad Luck & Hard Love" bears an uncomfortable resemblance to "Hell & High Water" from the self-titled debut, "Holding On To Letting Go" resembles a swinging version of "The Bitter End" from Folklore & Superstition, and 'Fiesta Del Fuego" could've been a bass-driven re-write of "Blame It On The Boom-Boom" from Between The Devil & The Deep Blue Sea. Guitar-wise, Chris Robinson & Ben Wells still trade in southern hard rock riffs, and the rhythm section of Jon Lawhorn & John Fred Young rattles along. Robinson is a decent vocalist.
Really, Magic Mountain is by far the worst of the four Black Stone Cherry albums, and not even Joe Barresi can redeem it. Yes, Evil Joe Barresi produced this piece of ***, but I refuse to blame him for anything that's wrong with Magic Mountain. It is quite obvious, like that other hard rock band with the word "cherry" in their name, that Black Stone Cherry is simply content with making middle-of-the-road radio rock. It pains me to say this, considering BSC is one of my favorite bands, but it seems the kick-ass southern rock group we thought we knew no longer exists. So, take their first two albums, and hold them close to your heart, as they are treasures of the hard rock scene. But, as Black Stone Cherry continues their descent down the hard-rock mountain, it is glaringly apparent that they have simply run out of magic.