Hard rock music is an ever-evolving genre that is customarily defined by the sound of a generation, or at the very least, the sound of a decade. This is not to say that all bands sound the same, but there are certain elements that give them a common bond, Black Stone Cherry included. However, the quartet from Kentucky mixes in an element of southern rock that makes them stand out from their fellow hard rock brethren of this generation. Their latest release, Magic Mountain, bridges the gap between mainstream melodic hard rock and the heavier southern rock sound of bands like Lynyrd Skynyrd, The Allman Brothers and Molly Hatchet. Ironically, the only other artist to achieve this balance in recent times is New Jersey’s own, Zakk Wylde.
Black Stone Cherry writes music from the heart that is inspired as much by bluesy hard rock bands like Aerosmith and Guns ‘N Roses as it is by their southern rock forefathers. Though their inspirations are largely from acts that are now considered to be “classic rock,” they have managed to not only bridge the genre gap, but also the generation gap to enjoy radio success with rockers like “White Trash Millionaire” and “Blind Man,” in addition to more introspective, emotive songs like “In My Blood” and “Things My Father Said.”
The radio success is already continuing with the first single off of Magic Mountain, entitled “Me And Mary Jane” – a rock anthem that is sure to be a crowd-pleaser when performed live. Although the album has other potential singles, Magic Mountain has more to offer than just radio-friendly rockers such as the title track.
The tone of Magic Mountain is established at the onset with “Holding On To Letting Go,” which, at times, chugs along like a Metallica-esque freight train, and features down-home southern flavor and powerful blues guitars in the vein of Robin Trower. From funky grooves to crunching power chords, all of the eclectic musical styles are held together by Chris Robertson’s incredibly soulful voice, which is indisputably mature beyond his years.
Magic Mountain continues its energetic pace with the Aerosmith/GNR-esque “Peace Pipe,” the powerfully bluesy “Bad Luck & Hard Love” and “Me And Mary Jane” before downshifting gears a bit with the moodier “Runaway,” which is in the same wheelhouse as Black Stone Cherry’s hit song, “In My Blood.”
“Hollywood In Kentucky” also has a similar vibe to “In My Blood,” with an added country flair that might seem out of place on a hard rock album, however, Black Stone Cherry blends genres so seamlessly that you can’t help but appreciate the song as much as the heavier moments on the record.
Just when you think that you have Black Stone Cherry pegged as a hard rock band with southern and country influences, they throw you a curveball with “Sometimes,” a melancholic ballad that harkens back to the early days of Pearl Jam.
The ride on Magic Mountain then takes a steep turn with “Fiesta Del Fuego,” a melodic rocker that combines cool voice effects, infectious harmonies and a dirty, gritty quality similar to the songs on GNR’s Appetite For Destruction.
Great hard rock bands have an uncanny ability to pay homage to the legends that have inspired them in the process of creating something unique and special. Black Stone Cherry has accomplished that feat throughout the entire Magic Mountain album, especially on the closing track, “Remember Me,” which opens with a psychedelic guitar riff reminiscent of Led Zeppelin’s “No Quarter,” and uses it throughout the song to tastefully accent the band’s classic sound.
Given Black Stone Cherry’s inclusion in all of the biggest hard rock festivals in the United States (Welcome To Rockville, Carolina Rebellion, Rock On The Range, Rocklahoma), it certainly seems as though the band is poised to join the elite acts in the genre at the top of the hard rock mountain. I guess you could even call it a “Magic Mountain.”