Like any tree, roots grow deep and they provide nourishment, cut off the roots or damage them drastically and the tree dies. The same is said for families, your children, your parents, your grandparents, your spouse, and your siblings. All of them add to the roots, add to the growth of the family tree and without them you are adrift in a world with no roots to return to. ‘Family Tree’, the new album from Black Stone Cherry is all about roots. Roots of your family and the roots of musical influence and embracing them fully.
‘Family Tree’ released 20th April 2018 on Mascot Label Group, sees BSC taking another step towards their more blues roots, foreseen by their Black To Blues EP release in 2017, yet with more ballsy
blues than any of their previous albums, all of which shaped and showcased the hard rocking blues machine that BSC have become. Yet despite this change, ‘Family Tree’ seems like a natural
progression, not a sudden move away from rock but more so a natural development borne from their Kentucky southern blues roots. Full to the brim with swaggering deep south blues ‘Family Tree’ is a
muscular, well built, solid album, the roots of which grow deep and strong throughout the thirteen tracks.
Heavy swaggering blues tracks such as ‘Bad Habit’ with its raunchy, edgy guitars and solid rhythm section showcases the new direction that BSC are heading in. ‘Burnin’ has more of those riff heavy guitars from Ben Wells, boomin bass and driving rhythm polished off with those whiskey soaked vocals of Chris Robertson. ‘New Kinda Feelin’’ has a boldness to it, a positive ‘strutting your stuff’ kind of feel that radiates feel good vibes and oozing the passion of the blues, “I don’t need a reason for my new kinda feelin..” Continuing in that form is ‘Southern Fried Friday Night’ which is steeped in the Friday feeling kind of vibe, celebrating the weekend, kicking back, relaxing with friends and just enjoying the “country life”.
‘James Brown’ has an upbeat funky rhythm to it, while ‘Carry Me On Down The Road’ and ‘You Got The Blues’ are full of the soul and swagger that the blues encompasses so well. The robust, stout
guitars from Ben Wells pervade every part of the tracks, solidifying the soulful vibe and complementing the sinewy vocals of Robertson.
Warren Haynes (Gov’t Mule) makes a guest appearance on ‘Dancin’ In The Rain’, the vocals of Haynes and Robertson working that ol’ blues magic while instrumentally there’s a real funk to the riffs that glues the track together. ‘Get Me Over You’ emanates attitude. The thick bass riffs and rhythm have a wonderful groove to them and I’d have to say it’s one of my favourites on the album.
‘My Last Breath’ has such a deep meaning to the track. The Gospel style deep south intro and the bare bones honesty of the lyrics that are expressed in the track are delivered beautifully, expressing the relationship between father and son, husband and wife and the whole unit that they make as a family, “Hell and high water she stuck right by my side...”, “If all I had left was my last breath, here’s what I’d spend it on, I’ll tell you you were my world and she was my girl.” The song talks about family in all aspects, those who have passed away, those that are still present and the importance of validating those you love. It’s a song to Robertson’s son telling a story, similar to that of The Cadillac Three’s track Legacy, another band that solidified their family tree through their musical roots.
Title track ‘Family Tree’ concludes the album with a heavy dirty blues opening riff, the drums prominent from John Fred Young, you can feel them under the track, steadily beating away, the bass
driving the rhythm and those gorgeous vocals from Robertson taking on a sturdier tone throughout. There’s a truth to the closing track, discussing the subject of coming home at last, returning home
and being buried under the family tree, maybe this is the way that BSC confirm to their fans and the musical world that their music has now come full circle, their musical roots planted firmly in the
blues where it may or may not stay for the foreseeable future.
Personally, I liked the album in isolation. Remove it from their previous albums and it stands steadfast, but compare it to their previous material and there may well be a few people out there who just don’t get it or like it. BSC are blues rockers, they’ve proved that and delivered some amazing rock music yet this slide into the heavier side of the blues feels right for BSC at this point in their career. They are taking a turn away from the commercialised idea of the music they should be making and taking it back to their roots of what they want to make and with that ‘Family Tree’ delivers a more soulful, laid bare feel to it which works perfectly.
Black Stone Cherry are:
Chris Robertson - Vocals / Guitar
Ben Wells - Guitar / Vocals
Jon Lawhon - Bass / Vocals
John Fred Young - Drums
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