Following Govt. Mule in the ‘90s, Black Stone Cherry have been one of the foremost bands carrying on the Southern rock tradition in the 21st century. Consistently putting out product since their 2006 debut, the Kentucky quartet return with The Human Condition, their third release for Mascot Records and seventh full-length overall. From the start, the band that brought us “Hell And High Water” and “White Trash Millionaire” sounds right in tune with 2020- sonically as well as lyrically; the hard-hitting opener “Ringing In My Head” starts with the words “People people your attention please/I need tell all y’all about a new disease.”
Roll out the octave pedals! “Again” follows the room-filling standard set by “Ringing”, complete with a catchy chorus and ripping solo. “Push Down & Turn” can be best described as the mid-aughts, 2020 style, on a more specified level it comes off like Monster Magnet’s “Space Lord” with a bit more twang. After three slammers in a row, “When Angels Learn To Fly” scales things back- not that much, mind you, quickly trading heaven for heavy again right after with the riff-driven “Live This Way”. One line from the chorus particularly sticks out: “Leaves are changing, time is wasting/sorry if this comes out wrong.”
“In Love With The Pain” lands in similar dynamic territory to “Angels”, a radio-friendly tale of love that doesn’t drown in sap or compromise the band’s rocking-ness. “The Chain” is hardly to be confused with the Fleetwood Mac hit of the same name, the track hitting like a piledriver largely thanks to the massive mix on John Fred Young’s drums. “Ride” revolves around an 80’s metal-style riff, gradually expanding into a soaring number appropriately soaked in the band’s distinctive sound. “If My Heart Had Wings” is the only number on the album that truly qualifies as a ballad; with the abundance of aggression the rest of the record has to offer a slow one is essentially obligatory.
What do you mean it’s not all originals? Yep, Black Stone throws a cover into the mix with their rendition of ELO’s “Don’t Bring Me Down”; tuned down to G it sounds more like a simplified version of “Empire” by The Winery Dogs with more distortion. “Some Stories” is another excellent, soulful guitar number; “The Devil In Your Eyes” is not too far off and comes with a soaring chorus and free-falling verses to boot. At last there is “Keep On Keepin’ On”, a brighter- yet nevertheless rocking note to go out on, especially given its optimistic tone. All in all, The Human Condition is a well-rounded album, perfectly suited for its time and a strong musical representation of its purveyors. Though Black Stone Cherry have had a decent career thus far, it’s not a stretch to call them an overlooked act, and it would be great for them to ascend to a new level of recognition. If they keep putting out records like this and building on them and they just might do that.