Black Stone Cherry has gone back to their roots in a big way with the release of their sixth studio album, Family Tree. As a follow up to the highly rated Kentucky, Family Tree is thirteen tracks of Black Stone Cherry doing what they do best, bluesy southern rock.
The tagline from the press release states that “Family comes first – you can never forget who was there with you from the start.” Ain’t that the truth! Raised on staples such as Cream, Led Zeppelin, Uriah Heep, and Muddy Waters to name a few you can hear the nod to these legends throughout the new album as their influences abound on the quartet from Edmonton, Kentucky. But that doesn’t mean that Black Stone Cherry has tried to replicate their sound. Instead they have taken those influences and fused them with their own sound to produce some amazing tracks that will have you just rocking along happily as the album plays out.
I must admit when I first heard Family Tree, other than a couple of songs, it wasn’t what I was expecting, so I just took it for a few more spins. The album as a whole did grow on me and I found that with a few listens I was able to take in all the nuances it offered. The album now has been on high rotation and I find myself thoroughly hooked. I’m looking forward to getting to see them incorporating some of these new tracks into their live sets.
Family Tree was self-produced and tracked at David Barrick’s Barrick Recording. This is the same studio where the self-titled debut album and Kentucky was recorded. Black Stone Cherry did not over rehearse in advance of the recording, preferring to capture the immediacy and spontaneity of the in moment takes while recording. “There was a lot of laughter in the studio this time, and an air of comfort because we had self-produced the last few releases. It helped us get down to the nitty gritty bones of our music,” says bassist Jon Lawhon. You can tell this as you listen to Family Tree.
The album kicks off with the rocking, bluesy number, Bad Habit. A count in from drummer John Fred Young and it kicks straight into a bluesy riff from Ben Wells, accompanied beautifully by the bass of Lawhorn which appears to be amped up in the mix a bit on this album (Chris Robertson was given the duties of mixing). This drives a funky groove along with John Fred that is really a constant throughout the whole album and is one of the things that endears Black Stone Cherry to me. The distinctive drawl of Robertson is then heard and everything is right in the Black Stone Cherry universe. A highlight of the song is the solo, accompanied by a bluesy breakdown piece.
Next up is the first single Burnin’, if you haven’t heard it then you need to check it out, so you know what you’re missing. New Kind of Feeling is another up-tempo rockabilly with added backing keys and just keeps the groove rocking as the album barrels along.
Carry Me On Down The Road kicks off with bongos, then drops it back a gear to hit the song with that Black Stone Cherry distinct distorted guitar sound. It’s similar to a seventies classic but has that modern edge. I’m finding that I love the prominence of the bass in the mix, thanks Chris.
My Last Breath is the first slower track and it positively drips with emotion. With lyrics like “And how could I know that one day she would give me you. Hell and high water, she stuck right by my side…” Robertson’s vocals here are on point and really add a soulful vibe to the sound, along with the backing gospel singers.
Back to rocking and the next song will become the Black Stone Cherry anthem going forward. Southern Fried Friday Night is just fun through and through, a head nodding beat, with great lyrics. “This is the Country Life!”
Dancin’ In The Rain is a delta stomp that sees a guest vocal and guitar stint from jam band icon Warren Haynes. The band first met Warren seventeen years ago when they first came to New York to showcase for their new label. Hearing him play on this track after all these years gave John Lawhorn chills.
The great Southern sound continues to wind its way throughout with more blues infused rock (Ain’t Nobody, You Got The Blues, and I Need a Woman), funky tracks like James Brown– adding some wah wah guitars, horn sections and more gospel girl vocals. But it is all building up to the title track and my favourite of the album– Family Tree.
Family Tree, for me is what Black Stone Cherry is all about: bluesy rock guitar riffs, soulful lyrics, real grooving bass and driving rhythm. This was my favourite song off the album from the first listen. I really enjoy the way the guys introduce new layers in this track though some slide guitar and Deep Purple like organ music. The lyrics also resonate with me and Chris Robertson’s voice is magnificence personified. “Once I lost my way, please take me home, to the place I belong. I want to die where I was born. Bury me beneath the Family Tree! You know I never really wanted to leave.” This is the sort of song that just keeps bring me back to these guys over and over again.
- Bad Habit
- New Kinda Feelin’
- Carry Me On Down The Road
- My Last Breath
- Southern Fried Friday Night
- Dancin’ In The Rain
- Ain’t Nobody
- James Brown
- You Got The Blues
- I Need A Woman
- Get Me Over You
- Family Tree
Family Tree is released April 20 2018 through Mascot Records/Mascot Label Group. Make sure you grab a copy and check it out. Hopefully we’ll get to see the guys performing these new tracks live here this year.