As I type this I'm taking a pleasurable meander through Black Stone Cherry's new album, "Folklore and Superstition" and frankly, they've done it again. Already I'm hooked.
It opens with "Blind Man", a song that got the crowd going at Download despite no-one knowing the words. In the same way that "Rain Wizard" punched you in the face on the first album, "Blind Man" gives you a good slap and demands that you listen. It's impossible not to tap along for the first four songs and it really does start to feel like these guys have given us another future classic.
The inclusion of piano ballad "Things My Father Said" may seem a little odd for those expecting the pure Southern rawk strummings of their s/t first album but it fits, and it has a genuine emotional tone. Still, if it's too soft, wait until "The Bitter End" appears and the balance is quickly restored. The good ol' reverb trick employed at the beginning of "Shooting Star" on the first album makes a welcome resurgence on "Long Sleeves" and "The Key" but the sound is altogether more mature.
John Fred's drumming has also improved ten-fold, although there's always the chance that this is down to more expensive production (everyone's a critic, eh?) - their forthcoming live dates will tell all. There are already some identifiable crowd-pleasers - "Peace If Free" sounds as though it's written almost specifically for a mid-gig break, where the distortion is turned off and the lighters are held aloft. I'm always a bit sceptical of songs that include huge crowd sing-a-longs on the album as it feels a bit contrived. Still, it's good to hear a good old fashioned protest song on a "modern" rock 'n' roll album. It's not just the BSC guys' hair that's keeping the 1960's alive.
The references to swamps, 'gators and general truck drivin' ol' boys gives this album a truly authentic Skynrd-esque vibe, especially with the excitable organ-into-guitar solo in "Devil's Queen". It's clear to see the relevance of the oft used Soundgarden parallels in "The Key" but the bluegrass banjo keeps it Southern all the way.
"Sunrise" has a bit of a bizarre reggae feel but again, it fits. Black Stone Cherry have dipped their toe into a number of different genres across "Folklore and Superstition", 90% of the time with great success. It's great to hear a band genuinely mature with album number two but not change so much as to leave us fans confused. These guys are still a good ol' Southern rawk band - listen to the yokel intro of "Ghost of Floyd Collins and try not to smile. They're versatile, young, passionate, and fucking good at what they do. Roll on December 14th.