For someone who’s drifted away from rock and metal music over the last fifteen years there is something reassuring to find that all the bands you used to listen to are still going and sound exactly the same as they did before. Other genres change or evolve slightly but the last change in metal was nu-metal in the nineties and now no one wants to pretend it happened. Back To Blues sees Black Stone Cherry tackle famous blues songs in their own heavy style. A deep heavy blues rhythm guitar with a smothering of high squealing lead guitar make up the skeleton of all their tracks.
The opening track, a cover of Howlin’ Wolf’s Built for Comfort, starts with a half-second tinkle of piano before thunderous guitars burst in, like the short intake of breath before being punched in the face. It’s strength is its bourbon-infused swagger yet it still manages to change things up via a funky synth buried under the guitars and a slowed down middle section featuring guitar noodling over a stripped back bass and drums before building into an overblown yet delightful crescendo ending. In many ways the opening track could be the whole album: it starts exactly as it means to go on.
Compared to the originals where the Black Stone Cherry versions stray is their lack of space. Basically, the full spectrum is rammed full of sounds. The pause before the beat gives us that easy and laid back feel, the drums effortlessly cool and letting us be swept along in the groove. The versions on Back To Blues are full-on: thumping drumming and sustained heavy guitars that echo the original groove but often the arrangements just lack a special something. The weakest track here is Palace of the King which doesn’t hit the mark and although the gospel vocals on the chorus are great it would have been hugely improved by the addition of some horns – something that their cracking cover of Hootchie Cootchi Man addresses while still retaining the flavour of the original.
Back To Blues is released via Mascot Records on 29th September.