Sound — 9
Taking a note from other supergroups like Chickenfoot, the latest to represent the best-of-the-best in the music world is the blues rock quartet Black Country Communion. Led by Deep Purple/Black Sabbath vocalist Glenn Hughes (who also handles bass duties) and rounded out by guitarist Joe Bonamassa, drummer Jason Bonham, and keyboardist Derek Sherinian, the group never gets oversaturated with solos to the point where it feels self-indulgent. Rather, Black Country Communion's debut CD Black Country delivers12 tasteful, blues-fueled tracks that combine the best of the new and the old. The origins of Black Country Communion's Black Country are a fairly interesting one, in the fact that it all began at Guitar Center of all places. When Bonamassa and Hughes performed together at the retail store, it caught the attention of producer Kevin Shirley, who essentially helped spearhead the project. Shirley wasn't off target with his inclination, as the quartet has a chemistry that is immediately evident from the opener Black Country. With a rapidly driving bass line and a gritty Southern rock vibe, the track is back to basics in style, but still has enough stylistic nuances to indicate these players have been around the block a time or two. You almost seek out problems on a CD when the musicians have set such a high bar. That being said, it's hard to find many flaws at all with Black Country. One could make the argument that it doesn't drift too far from the traditional blues rock format, and that's true for the most part. But the arrangements are skillful, complex, and intriguing. Whether it's Down Again, which features a lead riff that just oozes blues goodness and even eventually sounds like a hybrid of Queens of the Stone Age and The Who it's captivating from start to finish. One Last Soul could easily be a single for its fairly straightforward rock approach and immediately memorable chorus. The Great Divide mellows the mood slightly, but the laid-back track eventually builds into a crescendo. Hughes deserves credit from having the ability to do everything from croon soulfully to wail a la Chris Cornell on this CD. It's an impressive feat, particularly considering he's 58 years of age. Bonham and Sherinian's unique input are certainly noticeable (check out the very Led Zeppelin vibe they provide in No Time), but in the end it's hard not to be completely wowed by Bonamassa. Never does it feel like it's the Bonamassa Show, but you almost end up craving his solo and/or lead work. From the delicious wah intro of Beggar Man to the emotionally epic solo in Song of Yesterday (which he also provides lead vocals on), Bonamassa proves that he transitions easily from being an individual artist to taking on a group setting.
Lyrics — 9
Interestingly enough, the lyrical content holds true to a fairly solid theme. Perhaps to stay consistent with the somewhat geographic-based band name Black Country Communion, There are multiple references to land and sea on the CD. Whether in No Time (I'm on my way to Avalon; So high above the sea) to The Revolution in Me (I've seen the tallest mountains; I've drank your finest wine) and back around to Too Late For The Sun (Give it to Mother Earth; Take it for all it's worth), the mentions of earth, land, and sky are aplenty. There's a poetic feel to it all that makes for a nice change from your typical blues-rock lyrics.
Overall Impression — 9
You can certainly hear various influences throughout Black Country Communion, with Led Zeppelin and Free's touch upon more than a few tracks. It takes a competent band to even minimally replicate the Jimmy Page sound, however, so credit should be given where credit is due. At the other end of the spectrum, progressive rock is given a nod in The Revolution In Me. It's true the majority of Black Country Communion's sound is born from a blues rock sound that isn't necessarily novel or groundbreaking, but the 12 tracks are still amazingly tight arrangements that are chock-full of Bonamassa's tasty guitar work and powerhouse vocals from Hughes.