We’ve all had enough of the shit, we all need some healing.”
Welcome to 2023. And what do you need to heal you? Here’s the boys in Black Stone Cherry.
I’m not going to go on about the fact they helped me more than they’ll ever know (you can find out why here) but I am going to tell you that “Screaming At The Sky” is yet another slice of brilliance from one of the finest bands there is.
The line I quoted at the start is from the title track, and it encapsulates the vibe of the record. This isn’t about the boom boom anymore. These aren’t rock stars. These are blokes just like you, with the same hopes, flaws and fears. They’re just capable of making them into arena-filling slices of music like “Nervous”.
“When The Pain Comes” is the “classic” BSC sound, if you will. It could have been on the debut, maybe a little heavier (the double kick drums from John Fred Young, man alive!) world-weary, but basically polished, and brilliant.
And, “…..Sky” is very much a guitar record. Chris Robertson’s leads are underrated at the best of times, but here, on the angry “Out Of Pocket” for example, he mixes with Ben Wells’ rhythm to incredible effect.
This album has riffs on it’s riffs. BSC are one of those bands like Iron Maiden or AC/DC, who are superb at intros. “Show Me What It Feels Like” has got you even before a note has been sung.
And this might seem like a big call, but I’ll say it anyway: when Black Stone Cherry get it right, they’re the best there is. By “get it right” I mean simply this: listen to “Raindrops On A Rose”.
“Smile, World” surveys the world and concludes that it wouldn’t be bad if we enjoyed it. It’s funky too. Bass man Steve Jewell is right to the fore and if this isn’t in the live show soon I’ll eat my hat, your hat and anyone else’s come to that.
“Mess You Made” is very nearly literally a three-minute pop song, “Who Are You” does the loud/quiet thing, just so it can build to its crescendo, and “Not Afraid” absolutely slams, but it also rather proves that this all seems to be effortless huge. They make it look easy.
If you were looking for one song here to sum this album up, then maybe you could look at “Here’s To The Hopeless”. There are not many bands who could do empathy like this, so that you almost feel like they mean it.
There’s a near grunge riff to the opening of “You Can Have It All” but once it is going it’s pure Cherry. “The leap of faith is bigger than the fall” sings Robertson, and they’ve been doing this type of warmth for getting on for 20 years.
Look, there’ll be those who criticise this, there always is, but Black Stone Cherry fill arenas here for one reason only: their songs connect. They are also embarking on a club tour right about now, so they’ll also do what they damn well feel like.
Don’t like them? They don’t care. “Screamin’ At The Sky” is for the fans, and for the band, and it’s proof that together BSC are as good as it gets.