Tonight the Moonlight Let Me Down
Another State of Grace
Ain't the End of the World
Underneath the Afterglow
Soldier in the Ghetto
Why Do You Love Your Guns?
Standing in the Line of Fire
What Will It Take?
In the Shadow of the War Machine
Goodwill goes a long way in rock’n’roll. It certainly helped get Black Star Riders off the ground after ex-Thin Lizzy guitarist Scott Gorham discovered he could use his old band’s hallowed name only for purposes of nostalgia and not as a vehicle for a second shot at the big(ish) time. Not that there was a whole lot of difference between the two bands to start with.
Enlisting Celtic soul brother Ricky Warwick as singer helped – the Almighty frontman grew up devouring those old Lizzy records as a kid, and nailed The Blessed Phil Lynott’s voice and phrasing in a turn that would have gone down a storm on Stars In Their Eyes (the late singer’s pirate charm was another, altogether more inimitable matter). And as for those guitars, well, what sort of miserable arsebucket is going to shoot down Scott Gorham for sounding like Scott Gorham?
But goodwill curdles, and Black Star Riders have spent the last few years carving out an identity of their own. Granted, it’s not a million miles away from Lizzy’s own identity, but their fourth album puts enough clear water between the two to keep things interesting.
Not that you’d know from the first few songs. The title of opener Tonight The Moonlight Let Me Down sounds like it’s the result of a half-cut afternoon playing Thin Lizzy Word Bingo, although the song itself crackles with an electric charge that stops it from completely eating itself.
Even more blatant are the title track, a determinedly hokey slab of Celtic rock’n’roll that piles up the bagpipe-style guitars, and Ain’t The End Of The World, whose freewheeling guitars wouldn’t have sounded out of place in ’78. But both come pre-loaded with brain-battering choruses that even the original Lizzy could never quite pull off.
But Another State Of Grace is strong enough to stand on its own two feet. Soldier In The Ghetto lays on some funky electric piano that skews it closer to Come Taste The Band-era Purple than to Gorham’s old crew, while Why Do You Love Your Guns is an unvarnished old-school power ballad, albeit one that’s more interested in peace and harmony than seducing strippers into the sack, a lyrical tack that doesn’t quite make it as far the next track, the whiskey-guzzling anthem Standing In The Line Of Fire.
Black Star Riders will never escape Lizzy’s shadow, and nor should they – if you’d been a member of one of the greatest rock bands of them all, you’d be dumb as a box of cowshit to pretend anything else. And while they might not whip up the same adoration, Another State Of Grace shows that there continues to be life beyond Lizzy.