Black Stone Cherry – The Human Condition (Mascot)
It’s a bold move releasing The Human Condition at the height of a global pandemic.
After all, Black Stone Cherry aren’t renowned for their medical expertise.
In fact, the Kentucky quartet’s idea of a cure is a quick sip of bourbon and a singalong chorus.
But don’t worry.
Chris Robertson and co. aren’t donning white coats and co-writing public service addresses with Anthony Fauci just yet.
The Human Condition gets personal
Their Human Condition is far more personal than that.
It’s an observation on life, love and loss, albeit against the backdrop of COVID-19.
And in that respect Black Stone Cherry don’t break much new ground on their seventh long player.
Think The Family Tree branching out.
Robertson, of course, has endured a very public battle with mental health.
And he’s better placed than most to pass comment on the so-called Human Condition.
Will Black Stone Cherry’s latest be Ringin’ In My Head?
On the face of it, robust opener Ringin’ In My Head is a beer swilling, head banging stadium rocker – think AC/DC doing Southern rock.
But given Robertson’s back story it’s easy to imagine there are different layers to this stirring statement of intent.
Listen to the lyrics (‘Brother, brother, could you lend a hand’ is a compelling plea for help) and that’s clearly the case.
Of course, Black Stone Cherry have always fused the thought-provoking with the fist-pumping.
They’ve made a career out of juxtaposing the euphoric with the despairing.
Go right back to the band’s blistering self-titled debut and Lonely Train’s reflective refrain.
Even back then Robertson was writing about isolation, worry and running away.
And The Human Condition boasts its fair share of heart on the sleeve moments.
When Chris Robertson learns to fly
When Angels Learn To Fly is an affecting power ballad in the mould of Things My Father Said.
In Love With The Pain feels and sounds like one of the most personal and poetic songs Robertson has penned.
A rip-roaring solo gives the album track a harder edge but it’s easy to imagine a stripped down, acoustic version silencing festival crowds the world over.
And The Devil In Your Eyes is another darkly affecting piece of work.
Perhaps The Human Condition isn’t quite as celebratory as some of its predecessors.
It’s underlying themes and earnest tone leave little room for partying hard.
But a relentless record is a fine reflection of the uncertain times we live in.
The blackest of Black Stone Cherry?
There are moments of brazen defiance and much-needed optimism.
A rip-roaring cover of Don’t Bring Me Down lightens the mood.
And the bluesy, moody, conspiracy-theory themed Some Stories is Robertson at his no-nonsense narrative best.
Set closer Keep On Keepin’ On ensures The Human Condition signs off in bullish fashion.
But be warned.
This is the blackest of Black Stone Cherry.