Black Whiskey – Dry Bones (Self Released)

It’s impossible to assess Dry Bones without reflecting on guitarist Kev Ingles’ battle with cancer and, in the light of that ongoing fight against serious illness, Black Whiskey‘s second long player is an undeniable triumph.

Of course the Londoners won’t be looking for sympathy – even if they’ll find it in spades. Critical acclaim is likely to be more their cup of tea and that should come the quartet’s way too.

Successfully diluting classic rock into its purest form, this is a celebration of songwriting quality driven by burning ambition. From the bullish title track – replete with a killer Ingles riff – to fast-paced Cheat The Hangman (with its cute Maiden reference) and rhythmic set-closer Black Water, there’s no holding back. Black Whiskey don’t try to reinvent the wheel – they simply roll with it.

King Of The Blind sees vocalist Simon Gordon hit his stride in fine style: the Alice In Chains meets Alter Bridge post-grunge power that underpins some seriously heavy blues creates a furious fusion of modern rock. It’s the moment Black Whiskey realise the potential writ large across 2015 debut Heavy Train.

Piecing together Dry Bones as and when Ingles’ treatment allowed could have led to a disjointed record suffering from a lack of rhythm and an absence of creative cohesion. The opposite is true. There’s a keen focus and a sense of freedom at the heart of songs that span rock’s generations and yet reflect the genre’s enduring ability to evolve.

There are times when Gordon doesn’t appear to recognise the strength of his own voice: treading that fine line between self-confidence and modesty has always been a challenge for rock’s finest frontmen but Black Whiskey’s singer should focus on the former. He’s good – he needs to know it and he needs to show it.

Life isn’t easy for hard-gigging rockers looking to make that leap from cult following to mainstream appeal. It’s even harder when one quarter of the band is tackling a life-threatening illness. You won’t hear Black Whiskey moaning about their lot in life – but there’s a lot of life in Dry Bones and you need to hear it.