Black Star Riders: still channelling the warrior spirit of Thin Lizzy

Wrong Side Of Paradise finds main Black Star Rider Ricky Warwick capturing the romance and the strut of old

Wrong Side Of Paradise cover art
(Image: © Earache Records)

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Riders come and go, but Ricky Warwick has been a constant with Black Star Riders for a decade now. Bass player Robbie Crane has been there since 2014, and drummer Zak St John is a recent addition. Collectively they play like rockers with a fresh mission. The band's connection to Thin Lizzy has never abated; classic-era Lizzy guitarist Scott Gorham will guest on some of the 2023 tour dates, demonstrating the goodwill that persists. 

He and Warwick effectively led the Lizzy touring band into the Riders formation. The soul of the old band is a still a guiding principle. Album five does not stint with rousing choruses and motivational themes. Warwick gives his community a pep talk with Riding Out The Storm, steering away from negative thinking and revving out of the doldrums. 

That's preparation enough for Better Than Saturday Night, a tremendous breakout anthem, with Joe Elliott on backing vocals. The Osmonds' 1972 hit Crazy Horses is an ever-relevant tune about car ecology. It has been hijacked by artists including Alex Harvey and Demented Are Go, often with poor consequences. Black Star Riders play it close to the original, and you wish they'd deviated a bit more. 

The album was partly recorded at Dave Grohl's Studio 606. The mood is mostly joyous, and the guitars chime on demand. Warwick remembers tough times in Glasgow and Belfast, even weaving the city vernacular into a low song, Catch Yourself On. His home base is Los Angeles, but the warrior sentiments are Celtic; the track Green And Troubled Land is a bristling rebuke to political doublespeak at home and the morbid hand of history.

Warwick sounds especially enthused by the mid-period Thin Lizzy era that began with 1975's Fighting and fragmented after 1978's Live And Dangerous, and channels the romance and the strut on songs like Don't Let The World (Get In The Way). Fine, sustaining riffs and a story about street waifs, resisting the odds. 

On the title track, Warwick alludes to the walls and divisions of our own era. He summons up the mood of paranoia and dread. He writes well about the dispossessed, and the music has a keen sense of alarm. He returns to a similar idea on closing track This Life Will Be The Death Of Me. There's funk in the back beat, and it ends with an urgent, contemporary wail. There's a bad moon above, and Black Star Riders are calling it out for their second decade.

Stuart Bailie

Stuart Bailie is a journalist and broadcaster based in Belfast. He is the editor of the quarterly Dig With It magazine, and his work has appeared in NME, Mojo, Uncut, Q, The Times, The Sunday Times, The Mirror, The Irish Times, Classic Rock and Hot Press. He was Assistant Editor of NME from 1992 to 1996 and is the author of Philip Lynott: The Ballad of the Thin Man, Trouble Songs: Music and Conflict In Northern Ireland, and 75 Van Songs: Into the Van Morrison Songbook.