Where does the time go? Honestly, it barely feels like a few months since I was getting to grips with Kentucky… and it was over two years ago. More recently we had the covers EP Black To Blues and the sound on Family Tree definitely owes a lot to the classic numbers featured therein.
By now you’ll have seen the video for “Bad Habit” (and if you haven’t, it’s below), with its thundering use of descending chords from the intro and throughout. Definitely a huge blues influence mixed with the band’s trademark catchiness and Chris’s unmistakable gruff tones. The band may have been subconsciously influenced by Henry Mancini as well, as the opening riff from the Peter Gunn theme has buried itself in “Burnin'”!
Recorded and produced by the band themselves, this is a definite team effort with each band member displaying their writing prowess as well as musicianship. As a result we have as eclectic a collection as BSC have ever released. “Carry Me On Down The Road” alone mixes a bunch of styles and includes the wildest, heaviest, rocking-est guitar solo I think the band have ever recorded.
This album’s “Things My Father Said” is “My Last Breath”, the song that punches you where it hurts and has those evil onion-peeling ninjas sneaking around. Now it’s not as good as “Things…” but then very little is. But in terms of that style of track, this is a damn fine outing. The lyrics are heartfelt and the kind of thing so many of us can relate to, which was the strength of the famous track from Folklore and Superstition.
“Southern Fried Friday Night” is the album’s light-hearted moment. Akin to “Hollywood in Kentucky” it’s a shout out to the band’s home territory, this time focussing on a good old boys’ night out in Colonel Sanders-ville. And it rocks. And it rolls. And it swaggers. It’s simply a track that’s as much fun as the night it’s describing. If you need a song to slow-dance to with your other half then we have that with “Dancin’ in the Rain”, a song designed for couples who want to writhe together while upright. Gov’t Mule / Allman Brothers fans may well recognise the guitar tones and vocals of Warren Haynes who guests herein.
He’s not the only guest – the eerie opening voice on “You Got The Blues” is Chris’s son, all of five years old! In deference to the young one’s ears (I’m sure), said blues are referred to as the “mother-funkin’ blues” throughout. Just about, anyway. And it’s not just the blues getting a look-in. With “James Brown”, it’s understandable that we throw in some brass and get the funk going as well.
Unusually, the title track is saved for the end and it’s a good number to end on (despite being unlucky 13 in the running order). It probably harks back to the band’s own sound more than any other on here, nice swampy Southern rock. With a protracted solo in the middle that could, frankly just go on and on and on until the song fades out (it doesn’t, but the next one does) this would be a great song to end the main part of a live set on, giving the band a chance to amble off-stage while still making a god-awful, screeching, wailing, thundering racket as the crowd goes wild. Great stuff.
I don’t mind saying that it took a few listens to really get into Family Tree, but I knew it would be worth the effort. I found that Kentucky was the same – first impressions were “well, OK”, but after having it on several times for review it really, really grew on me. Family Tree has done the same. While there are tracks that instantly grip, the rest is a bit of a slow burner but once it’s in your head there’s no getting it out.
There are reasons that Black Stone Cherry are where they are – hard work and talent, and this album oozes both.
Header image by Gavin Lowrey
Family Tree is out on April 20th