Black Stone Cherry evoke a sense of warmth and community on Folklore and Superstition, the Kentucky quartet’s sophomore release. Led by frontman Chris Robertson, the band members address love, sex, war, family and ghost stories in their Southern-style hard rock that expertly segues from swamp rock to piano ballads to soulful sing-along numbers. It’s a highly versatile collection with many high points.
Varied Songs Touching on Different Rock Styles
A lot of young hard rock bands divide their albums between freewheeling up-tempo tracks and syrupy romantic songs. On Folklore and Superstition, Black Stone Cherry touch on both musical styles, but the band’s influences are so diverse that they can twist their tunes into seemingly endless variations. “Reverend Winkle” flaunts its energized riffs and thick bottom end. “Please Come In” starts off as a tough-guy rocker before evolving into an openhearted plea for the singer’s girlfriend to come home. “Peace Is Free” is a stripped-down call for societal harmony that builds to an inspiring choir-like chorus. “The Key” is harmonica-fueled Southern rock that sounds like it was recorded in a marsh. And the opening to “The Bitter End” comes close to replicating the frenzied thrash you’d expect from a metal band. Often, emerging rock bands suffer from a sloppy rhythm section that lags badly behind the group’s flashy guitar work. Black Stone Cherry showed signs on their self-titled 2006 debut of being a complete package – flash and heart – but that comes through more clearly on Folklore and Superstition.
Great Storytelling Details
The songs on Folklore and Superstition are credited to the entire band as well as executive producer Richard Young (drummer John Fred Young’s father) and producer Bob Marlette, but thankfully the material doesn’t feel like it’s written by committee. Instead, Folklore and Superstition is chockablock with great storytelling details that make the songs distinctive beyond their muscular musicianship. “Soulcreek” tells of a restorative river spot away from town where lovers go to be alone, while the poignant “Things My Father Said” is an unapologetically sentimental sendoff to a beloved dad. Images of the South pop up repeatedly on Folklore and Superstition, adding a sense of place to these songs without falling into local-color clichés. Even the spoken-word hillbilly intro to “Ghost of Floyd Collins” is brief enough to avoid being annoying, and the song’s rollicking power more than compensates.
Singing It Loud
Occasionally, Black Stone Cherry’s lyrics will fall into simple platitudes (“It takes true love to stand the test of time”), but those gaffes are easily outnumbered by plainspoken lines that are effectively rendered. On “Peace Is Free,” Robertson offers this suggestion to the discontented: “If you feel the urge to raise your hand/You can start a revolution or start a band/You better sing your song and sing it loud/But you better do it here and you better do it now.” Black Stone Cherry have taken their own advice, evoking a South of feeling, thinking individuals tangled up in love and self-doubt. And they sing it loud.
“Things My Father Said”
Best Tracks:“Please Come In”
“Things My Father Said”
Release date – August 19, 2008