20. Myles Kennedy: Year Of The Tiger
We said: "Devil On The Wall has a jaunty, country beat , with Kennedy adopting a southern drawl; Haunted By Design is an upbeat ditty that could soundtrack a road trip down a dusty highway. But while there are moments of soft acoustics – particularly in the delicate beauty of Turning Stones – and many of the melodies are played on acoustic guitars, banjo and mandolin, most of the songs still swell to grandiose, multi-layered levels, a characteristic certainly synonymous with Alter Bridge’s sonic style."
19. Uriah Heep: Living The Dream
We said: "While certain more successful peers have flattered to deceive with patchy albums and questionable live performances, Mick Box’s crew never lost the vitality that made their early records so thrilling. Even ignoring that one standout classic, Living The Dream is as strong as anything the band have produced in two, maybe three decades."
18. Joe Bonamassa: Redemption
We said: "Opener Evil Mama starts with Buddy Rich drums and Memphis horns, and the singer’s jibes at a back-stabbing woman’s ‘lies and… greed’ cleave too closely to standard blues tropes to feel like true pain. Pick Up the Pieces, too, gives its 10-time loser’s tale a brassy strut which could be Cab Calloway sashaying through the Cotton Club, while King Bee Shakedown is a further compendium of big-band and blues clubland raunch."
17. A Perfect Circle: Eat The Elephant
We said: "Eat The Elephant gradually gains heft while staying intriguingly unpredictable. If The Contrarian, Feathers, By And Down The River and The Doomed are multi-segment, quasi-religious goth epics designed to appease Tool fans (“blessed are the fornicants, may we bend down to be their whores!” Keenan growls, clearly a Love Island fan), they’re also misleading diversions to give Keenan and Howerdel breathing space for more frivolous fun."
16. Slash feat Myles Kennedy & The Conspirators: Living The Dream
We said: "Living The Dream is the band’s third, and best, album. It brings purpose and focus to the vision he and vocalist Myles Kennedy have for what they want to achieve. It has arena-rock attitude, but contained within songs and performances that are a lot more intimate and highly charged than you might expect. Slash’s punchy guitar style complements Kennedy’s passionate vocals, and in doing so brings to mind what Aerosmith achieved in the late 80s."
15. Alice In Chains: Rainier Fog
We said: "As far as Alice In Chains albums go, it’s a good one. But it’s not a truly great one. When it clicks, as on alternately grinding and soaring opener The One That You Know or the woozy psych-metal of Fly, it’s as good as anything they’ve done since they got back together, and up there with the best of what they did first time around. But there are moments when the album is a slog."
14. Blackberry Smoke: Find A Light
We said: "nobody is ever going to accuse Blackberry Smoke of overcomplicating things. Find A Light follows the old maxim of keeping it simple, stupid, right down to the route-one song titles. As the name suggests, I’ll Keep Ramblin’ is a no-frills boogie-shuffle featuring a guest appearance from rising pedal steel star Robert Randolph and some solid-gold testifyin’ from a bunch of passing female backing singers. It’s simple to the point of boneheadedness, but it’s got guts."
13. The Temperance Movement: A Deeper Cut
We said: "If there’s a better blue-eyed soul vocalist around right now, they’re keeping quiet. Phil Campbell is alternately sandpaper-rough and honey-smooth, slipping effortlessly from the lung-busting testifyin’ of Love And Devotion to the restrained emoting of the plaintive title track. It’s an approach that Paul Rodgers perfected 50 years ago and few people have managed to pull off since. Campbell is a notable exception."
12. The Magpie Salute: High Water I
We said: "They go for the big rock-out moments on Mary The Gypsy and the grandstanding Send Me An Omen, both of which sound like a return to Crowes dynamics, but the real gold is to be found elsewhere: a flashing slide-riff powers Walk On Water, a song as loose and rangy as early-70s Crazy Horse; Hand In Hand is the kind of tumbledown jam, as patented by Bob Dylan and The Band circa The Basement Tapes, that might easily have fallen flat on its arse in less capable hands."
11. Black Stone Cherry: Family Tree
We said: "You know what you’re getting with BSC – they’re not about to U-turn into punk any time soon. But over the years, their albums have become more layered, polished and full of arena-worthy choruses. Once described as being on the fringes of heavy metal, they’ve dispensed with that on their last few albums and have instead embraced those down-home roots more fully."