Review: Black Stone Cherry – Magic Mountain

Written by Ellie Kumar
Rock and roll’s favourite cowboys are back.

Rock and roll’s favourite cowboys are back. Their latest album, Magic Mountain walks away from the formulaic radio-friendly success of their previous record and takes its cues from their self-titled first album, bringing back the aggressive mythology of tracks like “Rain Wizard” and “Shooting Star.” 
This album is more instrument heavy, with a darker, metal spike running through than the soft bluesy sounds of the last record. In Magic Mountain the songs sound more comfortable together than the handful of radio hits rubbing awkwardly against a syrupy mess of similar sounds that was Between the Devil.
Despite the sprinkled drug references throughout the track-listing this is far from stoner rock. This is classic hard rock with a swampy, smouldering edge, full of dirty, smoky sing-a-longs and cheeky grins.
The powerhouse that is the rhythm section, Jon Lawhon and John Fred Young, keeps the album storming forwards. The heartbeat drums pulsing underneath each song are the Southern soul of the music which is never out of earshot no matter how crushing the pounding riffs are, like Lynyrd Skynyrd in a thunderstorm.
This is clear in the track “Hollywood in Kentucky.” Classic Black Stone Cherry, just close your eyes and you can almost smell the fried chicken. It’s a little bit sarcastic, a little bit honest with a whole lot of love for their home state. And the wild bluegrass outro is just great. 
Massive Hooks and Heartfelt Lyrics
First track “Holding on… To letting go” is a slow burner. The sludgy guitars and catchy chorus are actually very good after a couple of listens, but it’s not what you expect when you hit play. This rolls into “Peace Pipe” which has a more traditional Black Stone Cherry vibe as it opens, a little bit “Soul Creek” but without the Bayou sparkle. 
“Bad Luck and Hard Love” is where the album starts to shine, picking up the pace without losing the muddy beats that were established in the opening tracks. It’s the best mix of the band – massive hooks, Christ Robertson’s raspy drawl and heartfelt lyrics. It’s as though the Kentucky sun is starting to break through the heavy fog that threatened to strangle the music.
From there the record finds it feet, “Me and Mary Jane” is set to be a foot stomping festival crowd pleaser and “Runaway” is a gentle breather that’s not quite a ballad, but a slowed down reflection which is easy on the ears. “Fiesta Del Fuego” is a highlight, a paean to blackout nights of liquor and ladies, a smooth and sultry shot of excitement that builds with the guitar solo. 
Black Stone Cherry haven’t taken any risks with Magic Mountain but wisely; haven’t simply stuck to the ‘Southern Rock by Numbers’ method which might have succeeded in the last album, but probably wouldn’t have enchanted fans a second time.
Instead they’ve used the best elements of their music, and created a record that has Smoky Mountain peaks and murky ditches, a rock n’ rolling album with a lot of heart.
Top Tracks: Bad Luck and Hard Love, Fiesta Del Fuego, Dance Girl
Magic Mountain is out now on Roadrunner Records. What do you think of Magic Mountain? Let us know in the comment section below!