Kentucky, USA, the state famous for bourbon and whiskey distilling, tobacco, horse racing, and college basketball, and most importantly of all it’s the home of the hard rockin’, riff-machine BLACK STONE CHERRY. Over the past two decades, the band have redefined and set a new standard for Southern rock. With burly riffs and emotive hooks, the quartet of Chris Robertson (vocals, guitar), Ben Wells (guitar, backing vocals), John Fred Young (drums, backing vocals) and Steve Jewell Jr. (bass, backing vocals) have worked their way into the hearts of many rock fans.
Returning with their eighth studio album Screamin’ At The Sky, this record sees Robertson bare all lyrically and the band go hell for leather as they unleash a cannonade of old school, gut-punching, bluesy riffs. The album comes after a challenging few years for the band and follows on from their emphatic 2021 release Live At The Royal Albert Hall…Y’all, which was the highlight of their post-pandemic tour. The main thesis of Screamin’ At The Sky is moving on, as a lot of the things we all thought we knew changed abruptly and we had to look for hope in the darkest of places.
The album is also special for two reasons, it sees the studio debut of Jewell Jr., and it helped the band achieve a long held dream of recording an album in the legendary Plaza Theater in Glasgow, Kentucky, a 1020-seat venue which was built in 1934 which boasts incredible acoustics and a sublime atmosphere, making it the biggest sounding BLACK STONE CHERRY record to date.
Musically, Screamin’ At The Sky is a ballsy and punchy record. It has all the trademarks of old school, boisterous and raw BLACK STONE CHERRY while simultaneously feeling fresh and imbued with the wisdom that comes from maturity and 20 years of evolved songwriting. The soulful melodies meet anthemic rock riffs which uplift your spirits with ease and you can physically feel every pulsating drum beat.
Each song is open, honest and loaded with perspectives, thoughts and feelings that we can all relate to; if you thought The Human Condition was emotionally charged, Screamin’ At The Sky takes it up another level. Robertson has always been open about his mental health struggles and is an inspiration to many because of it, so hearing him bare his soul whilst foreshadowing the light and hope at the end of the tunnel (emphasised by album closer You Can Have It All) feels incredibly special to experience. There is a beauty in the band’s catharsis; letting out the pain helps you become a better person, and this album has that deep healing quality.
The album opens up with the title track Screamin’ At The Sky, a symbolic action that a lot of us do from time to time to release anger. However, this song kicks off with a huge riff and John Bonham sized drum hits which shows that BLACK STONE CHERRY aren’t here to mess around on this record. Leading into Nervous, Robertson begins to really open up and there is a grungier aspect to this song as it delves deep into a personal darkness. The music matches the anxiety in the lyrics with bombastic riffs and fluttering lead melodies. When The Pain Comes is an anthem for digging your heels in and embracing life’s challenges, with a barn-stomping metal chugged riff and a gritty, soulful chorus.
Out Of Pocket is an instant classic, with its gentle build-up and bombastic chorus, and it charts the frustration that comes from struggling and how you’re ready to just let go of it all yet still fight. Show Me What It Feels Like is a grooving, dancefloor filler with an element of adrenaline when it comes to love. Raindrops On A Rose is a signature CHERRY rock ballad which expresses the catharsis of crying the pain away. Smile, World is the song we all need, an uplifting Southern bluesy anthem that gives us the call to get up and start seizing every opportunity to enjoy life. The Mess You Made brings down the hammer on the Southern grooves and gritty lyrics, whereas Who Are You makes you ask yourself “who are you going to be today?”; with a similar vibe to 2014’s Never Surrender, it packs in emotive lyrics and rousing riffs. Not Afraid carries this on in similar fashion with the emphasis on leaving negative people behind whilst you embrace your change without fear.
Here’s For The Hopeless is a warm hug of a song, a deeply emotive rock ballad that penetrates right into your soul, letting you know that whatever life throws at you you’ve got this. Album closer You Can Have It All is the perfect song to consolidate the themes of the album, a foot stomping rock anthem that symbolises the hope at the end of the tunnel when you take that leap of faith.
Screamin’ At The Sky is the catharsis BLACK STONE CHERRY needed but it is also the best music that they have written to date. Channelling all the negativity and making it incredibly positive and uplifting is a special skill; this album feels like a hand to pull you up, a shoulder to cry on and a cheerleader in your corner.
Screamin’ At The Sky is set for release on September 29th via Mascot Records.
Like BLACK STONE CHERRY on Facebook.
The post ALBUM REVIEW: Screamin’ At The Sky – Black Stone Cherry appeared first on Distorted Sound Magazine.