Fairly standard-issue rib-off rock on the face of it, but SOUTHERN GENTLEMEN dish up a little more passion and craft than your average local roadhouse warriors on this, their fourth long-player. The chops here are impeccable — David T. Chastain needs no introduction to anyone serious about the guitar, while vocalist Eric Johns slots in nicely next to Paul Rodgers and David Coverdale with his road-tested, world-weary whiteboy blues swagger.
The results aren't uniformly awesome, but the band never sucks – at worst, they get a little corny, as on boogie booger "Never Say Never". But for every moment of disinterest, there's a song like "The Sky Is Falling", strong and powerful with the kind of rough-hewn chorus and irresistible lead work that woulda put it all over FM radio in a different era. "Devil In Me" delivers sexual electricity in a slow bump-and-grind, while "End of the World" is a surprisingly reflective and high-minded lyrical rumination, mortality never far from Johns's mind. It's pretty soulful stuff, when Johns isn't leaning on fire/desire rhyming dictionary clichés; the man has a lot of promise as a storyteller.
It seems a little convenient to call this straight up blues, because it's too clean and polished for all that – maybe blues as filtered through the Guitar Institute of Technology, the same basic chords and conundrums rendered clean and pristine and blasted out through Chastain's metal-guy tone. It's not really all that southern, either, at least not in an old-school sense – but it is the kind of classic workingman's hard rock that would sound just awesome coming out of the speakers of a pickup tooling down the interstate on a hot summer evening with the windows down. Shred heads, classic rock holdouts, and guys who wear bandanas and 20-year-old BAD COMPANY tour shirts in a non-ironic fashion, unite, because your summer jam has come in.