A Must-Have For Classic Rock Lovers!
It never ceases to amaze me how things come full circle. What greatness once was, will surely be again. I think it's some kind of divine order of things. But I'm not here to talk philosophy. I'm here to testify for the religion of Rock & Roll.
Hailing from the U.S. city of Huntington, West Virginia, in an area known for steel and oil refining industries, STONE MACHINE is a band not to be missed. Rock Ain't Dead is a strong declaration, and rest assured, these guys can back it up. Members Dirk Blevins (guitars, bass) Jason Mays (vocals) and Jeremy Hall (drums) have plenty of irrefutable evidence for the case on this third collection of rocking tunes. I put it on and within half a measure of “Rock N' Roll Star” I cried, “Oh, HELL yeah!” Closed my eyes, let the music play, and my ears were convinced that I was transported back to the days of bell bottom jeans, curly guitar cords, and truly one of the greatest eras of music.
Dirk Blevins has this guitar tone—how do I describe it? I hear so much in his playing. If Angus Young were playing with Lynyrd Skynyrd... I know that sounds twisted, initially, but wrap your mind around that concept. He's got a raw, dirty-sweet Malcolm tone and some Angus vibrato, but on a Les Paul. Listen to the Zep-flavored grooves on “Sugar Mama” and hear what I mean. I dig the album's stripped-down, bluesy, southern feel with a good dose of Brit and funk. A number of Les Paul guitar gods from the '70s (Montrose, Page) will undoubtedly come to mind when you hear Blevins' tone and style, but that's always a good thing. His playing isn't overly technical, but it's got style and attitude to spare, and riffs like those in “Southern Outlaw” will stick in your head all day. So will those electrified blues licks (“Black Moon Creepin'”), and some slide playing on “Sky's Gonna Cry”, a tune reminiscent of Whitesnake's “Slow an' Easy”.
Jason Mays' higher-ranged voice is made for rock music; of that I've no doubt. And it only gets better when it gets raspy! I've been going nuts filing through my albums and CDs trying to nail down who he reminds me of. Sometimes Sammy Hagar from the Montrose days comes to mind (“Got It Bad”). A guy with the balls to tackle Chris Cornell vocals and pull it off (as evidenced by the rough video of him performing “Outshined” with the band Split Nixon) is a good energetic match for Blevins' guitar playing.
Songs like “Lady Luck” and “Mr. Blues” evoke a memory of Skynyrd in Ronnie's time, and the latter, I've heard, is a tribute to the late singer. There's a little Black Crowes feel to some of the songs, (“Sad to Say”, “Angels and Devils”) and I think the tambourine lends a bit to that too. The percussion overall isn't especially complicated, but it's versatile—Jeremy Hall switches it up for every song and he's a heavy hitter. This is the kind of drummer that helps make a great band. He sounds like he's having a lot of fun and truly playing for the love of the jam. And that's what it's all about!
The title track, “Rock Ain't Dead”, is the true anthem on this one, and it will have you singing along just as the rest of them will. If you like your Southern Rock with a little more mojo, I recommend “Rock Ain't Dead” heartily with two thumbs up!