Rewards with just a little persistence

2 kicks off in a similar fashion to Black Country Communion’s first album, hitting the ground running with fast-paced, energetic opener “The Outsider”.

Given the similarities to its predecessor, a listener could be forgiven for fearing that perhaps BCC are failing to raise the bar height they set first time around. On the contrary, this is an album that rewards with just a little persistence.

“Man in the Middle” follows, maintaining the momentum established by the opener and building a solid, driving groove that will make any head nod in sync. Layered guitar harmonies build a catchy, textured background that makes it easy to see why this song was chosen for the first promo video. Special mention must go to Derek Sherinian here too, whose symphonic keys work lends an epic feel reminiscent of Zeppelin’s “Kashmir”.

We’re then led into a very different pace and feel, as Joe Bonamassa takes lead vocal duties for “The Battle of Hadrian’s Wall”, an acoustically driven piece that paints a lonely picture of war and the nature of man. The haunting lyrics and tense vocal harmonies build to a superb middle eight section that, while delivering a heavy release, halves the tempo and leaves the listener with a genuine sense of the futility of war. A long, slow fade blends seamlessly into the introduction of “Save Me”, a sublime, delicate, fluid keyboard melody with Glenn Hughes’ sweet vibrato pleading “take me down…”. An introduction this mellow can only be hinting at a big, heavy change to come, and that it does. This is the stuff Hughes does so very, very well; a heavy, desperate, unrelenting vocal intensity that makes you sit up and take notice. Special mention must again be given to Sherinian’s strings, which are an integral part of the enormous crescendo this song ascends closer toward with every bar. Certainly one of many high points on the album.

“Smoke Stack Woman”returns to more of a straight ahead rock feel, highlighted by an outstanding wah solo on guitar and a strangely atmospheric bridge section. More superb fretwork is to come on the next track, “Faithless”, that contains the best guitar solo of the album. This feels like a particularly personal song to Hughes and it would be fascinating to learn more about his lyrical intentions here.

Bonamassa takes the lead vocal for a second time in a similarly personal tone for “Ordinary Son”, a ballad of sorts, augmented by clean finger picking on guitar and a heavy, driving chorus. The tempo is lifted once again by “I Can See Your Spirit”, a faster rock number which returns us to the pace and intensity of track one. “Little Secret” showcases Bonamassa’s bluesy noodling, a mid-paced, colourful backdrop to the soaring refrain of “…you kill me inside”. Again, we hear Hughes’ soulful vocal reaching out with emotive intensity, doing what he does best. This flows into “Crossfire”, a great soul-funk rocker that would not be out of place on one of Hughes’ solo albums.

Despite the numerous highlights present up to this point, the best is certainly left for last on this inspiring album. “Cold” is a memorable closer, a highly emotive and truly effective piece of song writing. Hughes’ vocal starts almost as a whisper, hinting at the pain to come as he escalates verse by verse, delivering a powerful narrative of betrayal and despair. If you’re not moved in any way by this, you’re just not listening.

1. The Outsider
2. Man in the Middle
3. Battle of Hadrian’s Wall
4. Save Me
5. Smoke Stack Woman
6. Faithless
7. An Ordinary Son
8. I Can See Your Spirit
9. Little Secret
10. Crossfire
11. Cold