Young Guns Possess Old Souls – And Bring Back Real Rock
By Brian M. Howle
Well, some say real rock – you know, with great melody, ball-busting riffs and rich, textured vocals that blend into sonic audio nirvana – is dead. Fortunately, there’s a new band that will kick that crap right out of your system. Black Stone Cherry anchored a strong support bill – along with Finger Eleven – for Hinder on February 17, 2007.
This band has a deep musical lineage, including a founding member of the Kentucky Headhunters as father of their drummer. Each member brings boundless talent and energy to the table, and they scale all of the usual rock obstacles in a manner that belies their collective young ages.
Earning the nickname, the “southern Wolfmother” by Spin Magazine, Black Stone Cherry brings intensity to their music and live show that is absent from their American rock contemporaries.
In the dry county of Edmonton, Ky., there was little to do growing up and the band members relied on music as an escape. Music was handed down from family members to the band. Drummer John Fred Young’s father, Richard, is a founding member of the Grammy Award-winning Kentucky Headhunters, while bassist, Jon Lawhon’s great uncle was a jazz drummer. Singer, Chris Robertson received his first guitar from his grandfather, who built instruments by hand, and learned his first chords from his dad. And it wasn’t just his family encouraging him to play. Whenever Chris got into trouble at school, he would end up in the principal’s office, jamming with the principal himself.
Incorporating bluegrass, gospel, and blues, Black Stone Cherry absorbed the sounds of the regional music being heard in their homes and and folded it into a southern rock style of their own.
Black Stone Cherry released their self-titled first album for Roadrunner Records (July 2006) that debuted at #90 on the Top 200 Albums Chart.
I was fortunate enough to catch up with BSC’s guitarist, Ben Wells, last week, and he took a few minutes to answer some questions for their fans here in Myrtle Beach.
Howle: So, tell me .. how did you guys get together, and how did you come up with the name, “Black Stone Cherry”?
Wells: Well, you know, all the guys grew up in the same town, and I’m from the next county over, about 10 minutes away. We got together one day and talked about forming a band, and then we started practicing the next day.
As for the name, well, we wanted something that would stand out and not sound so lame like some of the bands that are out there now. At the time, some of the guys were smoking cigars, and the brand name was Black Stone, and they came in flavors, like cherry, and we sorta said, ‘hey, that sounds good’, and it stuck.
Howle: Tell me about your practice house. What’s the story on that place ?
Wells: It’s just a little ol’ farmhouse with three rooms, covered in rock ‘n’ roll posters and all that. It belongs to John Fred’s dad, and it’s just an awesome place to practice. We’d get out of school and practice every single day, and during the summers that’s all we did, was practice.
Howle: Well, all that practice and hard work paid off, because you really have a great, honed, signature sound.
Wells: Oh, well, thank you, man. We didn’t want to just be another band with the same sound, you know. So we just kept at it and got our sound, and picked up stuff from all over the place – musically – and we put all of our ideas together.
Howle: What’s the learning curve been like for a new band on tour, like you guys opening for Hinder?
Wells: Oh, it’s been incredible, man. We started touring back in May. Our first tour was with Saliva, and that lasted a month and a half; and after that we toured with Buckcherry, and man, that was really incredible …
Howle: Oh, seriously, that had to be great!
Wells: Oh yeah, and then we toured with Staind – really nice people, we went camping with those guys on our days off – and then we met Hinder. It’s fun because going into this tour we already know all these guys.
Howle: What’s the best part about touring?
Wells: I guess getting to play with different artists all the time, and being on stage and watching people sing our songs with us. Every night we go out to the merchandise table and hang out with people and give them something back, because our fans are very special, man.
Howle: On the flip side, what’s the worst part about touring?
Wells: Hmmm … well … I guess being stuck on the road without having your mom to take care of you! (laughs)
Howle: Yeah, we can all relate to that, too!? So when is your next CD coming out?
Wells: Oh, we’ve got a ton of stuff we wrote growing up, you know. And on the road, it’s harder to write, but we’re always working on stuff. And the good part is when we do go back in the studio after this tour, it’s in our hometown, so nobody drifts off somewhere doing their own thing like a lot of other bands. We’ll get right back to it.
Howle: What’s in the future for Black Stone Cherry, and what do you want to tell folks in Myrtle Beach?
Wells: Well, we just want to keep making great music and playing hard every night … and thanks to everyone who comes out, and hopefully, the next time we come here, we’ll be the headliner!
Thanks, Ben. I really, really feel bad for those who missed getting a ticket to this show. Make a note to yourself to look for Black Stone Cherry when they come back – but you’d better get your tickets early, then, too … they probably will be the headline act next time around!
The previous interview was originally published February 15, 2007.