In a genre as simple and saturated as blues, it takes something bold to stand out from the crowd. This one certainly has it.
Label: Mascot Records
Time: 6 tracks / 26 mins
Black Stone Cherry released a blues covers EP two years ago, featuring classics like “Born under a Bad Sign” and three penned by Willie Dixon. It topped the Billboard blues chart and its popularity has led to this follow up.
The band are reluctant to call it a covers set. Guitarist Ben Wells commented, “Muddy Waters, Freddie King, Howlin’ Wolf, and the like, we used to listen to that constantly growing up, and still do. It’s what we grew up playing and learning together. It’s the DNA of what our band is. It’s not just us covering songs. It’s about doing our own version of each song.”
They certainly add their punch. The original artists would surely love such a potent approach as this band has taken. As a Southern rock band, they have maximised the riffs and play several tracks at volume eleven, and you get an occasional glimpse of Marshall Tucker Band in the solos.
Right from the off in “Big Legged Woman” the energy level is highly propulsive.
If that title seems inappropriate in a world that is far more p.c. than in the 1930s, they edit the mysterious lyrics of Robert Johnson’s “Me and the Devil Blues” to remove the line “I'm going to beat my woman 'til I get satisfied.” The band is no one-trick-pony; they add a definite funky undercurrent to this that could hardly have been imagined when the original was first performed.
Otis Rush’s “All your Love (I Miss Loving)” has its own variety built in from the double-speed central section, but they add chiming guitar notes that hang in the air, and play out with some keys playing from guest Yates McKendree, whose contributions to the whole album lifts it enormously.
They return to Willie Dixon with “Down in the Bottom,” which reprises the straight ahead energy of the opener, augmented by some feisty Hammond that gives way to some harmonica from drummer John Fred Young.
Elmore James’s “Early One Morning” brings back the funk and an urgent guitar solo that goes in unexpected directions and – like the whole EP – the live regular “Death Letter Blues” shows the result of the time that the band has spent with these songs.
This is blues rock that should excite lovers of both genres.