If putting his name at the top of the marquee shows Mark
Stuart wants to separate himself from the rest of his irrepressible outfit —
The Bastard Sons of Johnny Cash, as they previously went by — suffice it to
say this album doesn’t exactly affirm a divide.
Even with subtle change in their handle, the musical M.O. remains
precisely the same, reflecting no differential in terms of attitude, outlook or
That’s a good thing, by the way. Stuart continues to pursue
the Bastard Sons’ gruff alt-country regimen, bearing homage to their former Man
in Black namesake and rugged, rootsy renegades like Waylon, Willie, Steve Earle,
Bare Jr. and other squinty-eyed, square-jawed outlaws. For much of the album, Stuart and company opt
for an assertive journeyman stance, tearing up the asphalt while flashing an
unapologetic middle finger to those that have scorned and abused them along the
proverbial heartland highway. Stuart
exhibits the grit and the spit to keep the act convincing, and with rousing,
rollicking barnburners like “Restless Ramblin’ Man,” “When Love Comes A
Callin'” and “Gone Like a Raven” providing the fodder, their unflinching blue
collar credo gets full venting.
Yes, this Bend in the
Road connects with a trail well traveled, but Stuart and Sons clearly know
every mile marker along the way.
Standout tracks: Restless Ramblin’
Man,” “When Love Comes A Callin’,” “Gone Like a Raven” LEE ZIMMERMAN