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Kentucky – Black Stone Cherry

With the likes of Blackberry Smoke and The Cadillac Three going down increasingly well with UK crowds, our appetite for the Deep South is as robust as it’s been in years. Leading the charge, with the beefiest riffs and most heartfelt, chest-thumping of refrains, Black Stone Cherry have delighted fans throughout the ‘00s – all the while avoiding bust-ups and retaining the same lineup. With fifth album, Kentucky, they’re not about to let up.

They’ve set lighters (or rather, Smartphone lights) swaying before and they’ll do so again; with suitably rousing slowies like Long Ride and The Rambler (a pretty, countrified affair written with ex-Shinedown guitarist Jasin Todd). A cover of Edwin Starr’s soul standard War (“huh! What is it good for…” etc) appears as something of a surprise, but it suits them; thumping out with the rawest of soul and T-bone steak heft. It’s no secret that BSC are down with Jesus, but they wear it well – with prizefighter soul rock and gospelly backing vocals oozing out of Soul Machine.

Indeed, for all the dirty, riffy meat and muscle, Kentucky has plenty of subtler twists; bluesiness, the aforementioned soul, even funky hints. These are qualities that hark back to their roots, and have been a little smothered in some of their more recent, commercial moments. Not that they’ve lost their sense of fun – Cheaper To Drink Alone is a bit like a less dumb White Trash Millionaire (and we mean ‘dumb’ in the most affectionate way possible here).

By harking back to basics with fresh (not to mention experienced) eyes, Black Stone Cherry have made an organic-sounding album that wins on tunes and muso kudos.

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