Black Stone Cherry wields rowdy riffs



By Steve Newton

When the Straight calls Black Stone Cherry drummer John Fred Young’s cellphone, he’s at a gas station in his hometown of Edmonton, a small town in south-central Kentucky. When the phone rings, John Fred is busy purchasing some bottled water, so his dad, Richard, picks up. That’s cool, because Richard Young is a founding member of the Kentucky Headhunters, whom you may recall for their early-’90s rendition of “The Ballad of Davy Crockett”.

Before passing the phone over, the elder Young comments on his kid’s up-and-coming southern-rock outfit.

“I think that they created a sound,” he drawls proudly. “They’ve been able to take a lotta different roots music that they grew up listening to, as well as the music that the Headhunters grew up on—the Led Zeppelins and Deep Purples and all those groups—and then they’ve taken it to a new place.”

It’s clear from the photomontage gracing the back of BSC’s self-titled debut album that the band has taken the spirit of ’70s hard rock to heart. It’s all Les Pauls and long hair, with a grimacing Young pounding the skins while wearing a black Zeppelin T. The young bucks in Cherry (oldest member 23) took over the Headhunters’ century-old practice space five years ago, cleaned it up, and with the help of Richard Young—who would eventually coproduce their album—set out to update the glorious noise of Zeppelin, Skynyrd, and AC/DC.

“What better than to have Pop produce,” says John Fred, “because he has great ears, and he really put us in the right direction from the start. He was like, ”’Hey, check out these Cream and Zeppelin records. If you want to be a genuine rock ’n’ roll band, check this out.’ ”

While it’s mainly about rowdy riffs and thundering rhythms, Black Stone Cherry has some worthwhile lyrics embedded amidst the wailing guitars and rough-hewn vocals. “Lonely Train”, for example, attempts to bring some comfort to the relatives of soldiers living the nightmare of America’s war in Iraq.

“War is pretty stupid,” Young posits, “and a lot of good souls are lost—on both sides, you know, not just ours. We definitely wanted to write a song that could be maybe like a security blanket for the families, for little brothers and sisters to wrap up in at night.”

Unlike its Canadian namesake, Edmonton, Kentucky, is in a “dry” county—no liquor allowed—which helped inspire “Backwoods Gold”, about a resident running moonshine out of a local hardware store. But the fact that booze is banned in their hometown doesn’t mean the Black Stone Cherry members plan to drown in Pilsner when they get to Vancouver. They’re teetotallers on the road.

“What we do on-stage is more like athletic activity than it is just playing songs,” asserts Young, “so we always want to be in tiptop shape to perform. You got kids comin’ out to concerts whose parents are scratchin’ up money to get ’em there, so we wanna make sure that they get their money’s worth.”

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