Black Stone Cherry: not just only feelgood rock and roll

Black Stone Cherry was founded in 2001 by Chris Robertson (lead vocals and guitar) and John Fred Young (drums), shortly later joined by Ben Wells (guitar) and Jon Lawhon (bass guitar). After the release of the independent demo Rock ‘n Roll Tape. Black Stone Cherry’s excellent live reputation got the hard rock quartet a label deal and on 1 April they will release their fifth studio album. The former CDs Between The Devil and The Deep Blue Sea (2011) and Magic Mountain (2014) contained rock radio favourites like White Trash Millionaire and Me And Mary Jane. The music of BSC was very successful overseas, especially in the UK, where their last three albums hit no.1 in the UK rock charts and Magic Mountain debuted top 5 on the UK album charts. Kentucky is their fifth album and it is – what a cliché – their best effort so far, as it is a really aggressive, heavy and groovy album. While BSC is on a short European Tour I had a talk with drummer and founder of the band John Fred Young.

How was the gig in the Milky Way in Amsterdam on 11 February last by the way?

“It was fantastic; we played in the large venue for the first time now, so I think that we had a crowd of around 850 people! It was amazing, we played In Our Dreams (the new single,MK) and The Rambler from our new album Kentucky and the crowd really seemed to like and dig the two new songs.”

Have you already had reviews/reactions about the new album as it has not been released yet?

“Yeah, man, we had lots of reactions already. Most people who have heard the album were really enthusiastic. They loved the new stuff. We are extremely proud of the acoustic track The Rambler, originally a song written by Jasin Todd, a very good friend, we liked it from the start, we cut it, changed it, added a bridge and it came out as an amazing track. The Rambler is really cool, just listen and enjoy it, man!”

Kentucky is your fifth studio album, but your first one with Mascot Records, why did you leave Roadrunner?

“We were actually fired, ha ha, so we had to leave; but in fact it turned out as a good thing for us, as Mascot Records is excellent for us. One day we met Ed, the owner of Mascot Records, and he talked to us for hours about guitars, amps and all that stuff and it was really refreshing to hear that an owner of a music label is really an actual guitar player. He knew what he was talking about; it was a really cool conversation and it clicked right from the start, so he wanted us to sign for Mascot and so we did and I am really glad we did. Kentucky will be released on 1 April, so we are looking forward to that.”

Kentucky to me is a back to the BSC roots album, am I correct?

“”Yeah, absolutely, man. This is our stuff on the album, this is what we wanted to record and play. All the songs were written on the road and most of them are really heavy and aggressive. We did this album like we did our debut album and so to me Kentucky became the most interesting album we have done so far. The songs are recorded live and you can even hear mistakes as we used no audio tune and we really did this album for the fans and for ourselves; most of the tracks are definitely NOT radio friendly, ha ha, but who cares, right?”

Kentucky contains a cover, being Edwin Starr’s Motown classic War, also covered by Bruce Springsteen, why this cover?

“We really like old Motown stuff and this one was perfect for us and seeing what is happening around the globe right now, the title and the lyrics could not be more appropriate, don’t you think so?”

In Our Dreams, the new single, was co-written by Bob Marlette (Alice Cooper), how did you guys hook up with him?

“Bob already worked with us on our second album and the song In Our Dreams was already composed a long time ago, but the label found the song too heavy, ha ha… Luckily we did not throw the track away and so we put it on the new album and it is one of my favourite tracks on the album.”

How important are lyrics for BSC?

“Very important, but the songs come first and foremost. We all compose music and write lyrics and that is a good thing.”

What are your main musical influences, if you have any of course…

“Speaking of our generation of rock bands I really love Soundgarden. Older bands from my father’s generation that I really like are The Beatles, Cream and ELO and of course we all like the classic rock bands such as The Stones, Aerosmith and Black Sabbath. However, we also like Motown music, blues and soul; things like Al Green, Herbie Hancock and Freddie King and Led Zeppelin and we try to mix all these influences into our music.”

What is your favourite track of the album? Mine is Darkest Secret by the way…

“I really like In Our Dreams and Soul Machine a lot, but my absolute favourite one is Rescue Me, a real heavy weight of a song with groovy riffs. Rescue Me is a guitar driven monster which should be enjoyed at maximum volume!!”

Anything to add?

“I would like to thank the Dutch fans for the support they have been given us so far and do not worry, we will be back, ha ha… I would like to think you for investing time in Black Stone Cherry and it was a real pleasure talking to you.”


Interview by Martien Koolen