Mascot Label Group
Review by Rick Ossian
This is LP Number Five for this lively bunch of crunchy Southern heavy rockers from Edmonton, Kentucky. They are Chris Robertson on vocals and guitar, Ben Wells on guitar and vocals, Jon Lawhon on bass and vocals and John Fred Young on drums. Every track, save for the ballad The Rambler, is an in-your-face slammer loaded with guitar, bass and drums. Even the bonus tracks at the end pack a wicked punch. Kentucky finds these blokes really coming into their own, and as you will see/hear by the end of this, they deserve a place in the storied halls of Southern Rock. If it were up to ME, and I was the label/genre guy, I would call them Southern SLAM, because that’s what they do most of the time – they will slam you up against the proverbial wall!
The Way of the Future starts things off in fine form, kicking and screaming and riffing heavily from the outset. A very nice start to things indeed, and we get our first blast of lead guitar salvo at only 25 seconds in (imagine that!) to the tune. This track, as well as the majority of its companions, is definite FM radio rock fodder, if that’s still even possible nowadays. I’m not sure about where YOU live, dear reader, but here in the barren wasteland of the American Midwest, tunes don’t normally get played on the radio unless they are established classic rockers. The occasional up-and-comers will get an occasional break, but they seem few and far between in this scribe’s opinion. Perhaps that is where BSC will get its edge over the others. No needless noodling on or pretentious Prog soundscapes – just slamming, getting down to business kind of rockers.
In Our Dreams find us with even more possible FM fodder, with a bit of feedback and some slightly wobbly vocal FX, finds it way into our hearts as well. The vocal echo is used to very good effect (pun very definitely intended), and it won’t be the last time the vocalists use this particular effect either. You will find it used liberally throughout the mix in these recordings, and not to worry – it’s not a bad thing. This is rowdy, raunchy RAWK at its finest, and we are blessed and privileged to be able to hear it. The lead guitar piece at 2:20 is what I will henceforth refer to as SSS (sweet Southern shred), to coin a phrase. Wait, am I allowed to do that? Oh, well – too late! When I say SSS I am mainly referring to how these blokes mix their classic hard rock stylings with metal, blues and country to come up with the ultimate Southern mish-mash-mosh, if you will!
Shakin’ My Cage features a picking intro with the effective wobbly vocal again, and we are treated to heavy-as-fuck riffing straight from Riff City right out of the starting gate. There is a brief guitar salvo stabbing into us at 25 seconds in. I’m finding the flavour here slightly reminiscent of Warrant’s Uncle Tom’s Cabin – almost a funky, backwoods state of mind, but considerably heavier. The lead guitar bit at 2:45 is drenched in wah, and the closing leads are tasty too (from about 3:45 to the end of the tune).
Soul Machine is four flat minutes of sneaky, sexy Southern soul boogie. They even spell out the word SOUL for those of you who don’t know how… The main riff at the intro rides hard throughout, and is a sweet one, too – one part funk, one part blues, and the rest slightly HM/classic Hard Rock. The backing vocals are damn near perfect. The lead guitar bit at 2:15 is more of the SSS to which I referred above. There are some boogie-style soul horns in the back, as well. I caught myself bobbing and head-banging to this number, by the by!
Long Ride starts out with some very pretty harmonics (chiming, ringing guitar notes), and is a bit of a heartfelt blues ballad at the beginning. It morphs into a mid-tempo riffing rocker at about 45 seconds in, and we get a nice melodic shred at 2:15. At 2:40 the proceedings shift slightly, giving way to the vocal refrain “I’ll never be the same without you“. Nice fadeout at the end, too.
War is a cover of the revolutionary Edwin Starr hit from 1970. It is nothing if not faithful, but slightly heavier than the original, if that’s even possible! It is a soulful slam, and features some stabbing horns puncturing our guts as well as the obligatory lead guitar bit at 3:45. Another excellent track in the bag!
Hangman begins life with a sweet bit of feedback at the intro, then SLAM again back into your seat, so you can enjoy the sweet main riff. The vocal FX stab at us again and again, and this number features a nice, chugging tempo. The lyrics are nothing if not chilling: “Hangman tie your knot tight/Time is up and I’m not running from you tonight/I’m not afraid and you are not my savior”. The lead guitar parts at 2:20 feature both barrels burning, so to speak, as both axe-slingers step up to the plate and let fly. We get a nice breakdown at 2:55 with more vocal FX, and some really nice riffing at the close as well.
Cheaper to Drink Alone is a nice heavy blues, even a floozy blooze, to quote an old Bluesman from the Mississippi Delta. Women and booze often seem to play a part in Southern Rock and the blues, and this tune in particular features a woman who uses jewels (diamonds) and fancy cars and high heels and seems to be able to talk a man into buying such luxuries for her whenever they get drunk with her. The Black Widow comes to mind briefly, not sure why! Both barrels are burning again, and we find our protagonist feeling “nothing but broke/BROKE!” by our tale’s end. The lead guitar bit is soaked in echo and feedback, which may be a bit cliche but is always a nice touch, in my opinion.
Rescue Me features a bit of church vocal at the intro, but then right into the heavy riffing we dive again, plus we get a little taste of lead! This is an uptempo boogie rock number, and is loaded with guitars – mainly the SSS stuff I was alluding to earlier. There are several moments here (1:15, 2:15 and 3:10) where the guitar comes to the fore and just punches us in the face. They manage to pack a lot into the 3-5 minute slot which they normally allow themselves per track.
Feelin Fuzzy features more of the same, pretty heavy, in-your-face stuff again. There are FX at play both with the guitars and the vocals, and the lead guitar bit at two minutes in is kind of sneaky but good. It came out of nowhere, officer, I swear it! There is another of the breakdowns that we are beginning to notice a pattern of in here also.
Darkest Secret has one of those ominous intros that I am always on about, but before we know what hits us, we are slammed back into our seats yet again. There is a bit of a doom-and-gloom vibe here, with some slightly Sabbath-style riffing. More like sludge stabs then riffs, but they are used to very good effect, again. At 2:40 there is another tasty guitar bit, plus an upshift (KICK IT) at three minutes in. The three-and-a-half minute mark features much, much more glorious guitar to boot!
Born to Die boasts another of the ominous intros. Haunting fingerpicking, giving way to a heavy rocking blues with some very good riffing, and some ass-kicking work from the engine room in addition to that. There are some twin leads happening at the 2:20 mark, and some slamming, shredding guitars at the close as well. The closing salvo here is also slightly reminiscent of Thin Lizzy in their younger years.
The Rambler is a much mellower, strumming ballad. It never really takes off, but then that’s the point, I believe, with this particular tune. It is more of a journeyman/storyteller number than anything else. Good stuff, but doesn’t really fit with the rest of the tracks. You will have to open your minds a bit to ingest this one, dear reader. “A million miles from Kentucky/ But I will always be around/So turn the radio up when your heart breaks down”. Yes, the sentiment may be a bit corny, but it rings genuinely when you hear it.
The two bonus tracks, I Am the Lion and Evil, are more uptempo boogie with loads of guitar. Some blues, a lot of bass, and lots of guitar! Did I mention there was an extraordinary amount of guitar? Boogie blasts, the both of them. At this point it is up to you, dear reader, to decide. Do I dig Black Stone Cherry? Of course you do! If you don’t, then move on to the next batch of tunes!