Jon Lawhon (Black Stone Cherry)
Deep down in Louisiana, close to New Orleans, rang like a Sunday morning church bell, calling on saints and sinners alike to free their minds and become part of the revolution. They came out of the Southern swamps, the California desert, the working class towns of the Midwest and all along the East Coast. Loud guitars and larger than life drumming came together with storytelling poetry. Rebel-ism gave birth to rock “n’ roll. Every few years or so, a special batch comes up from the ground, to serve as a beacon. Black Stone Cherry has arrived with their second Roadrunner Records release, Folklore and Superstition due out August 19.
"There is a mystique with folklore and superstition," says Black Stone Cherry drummer John Fred Young. "We're intrigued by and interested in history, roots and heritage, and we incorporate that into the band." The ability to tell compelling stories and lyrical tales isn't the only thing that Black Stone Cherry brings to the table. The band can churn out riffs that'll put hair on your chest. They crank out choruses that are fit for a fist-raising rebel rousing and still keep the beauty of a Sunday morning back porch service. Folklore and Superstition isn't just a Southern rock record. It's an American rock n’ roll record.
The album is a timeless work by American pied pipers destined to take their music from the back roads of America to the four corners of the globe. "We are taking Southern tradition and giving a taste to the rest of the world," says bassist/vocalist Jon Lawhon.
Black Stone Cherry didn't stray too far away from home to record the album. The band wrote all the songs in the infamous Practice House, an old farmhouse used by John Fred’s father and uncle to write Grammy winning albums for The Kentucky Headhunters. A song like “Soul Creek” fills the room with its vintage arena rock sound yet was born where the band held bonfires around a creek across the road.
The band enlisted famed rock producer Bob Marlette (Ozzy, Shinedown) and headed to Nashville’s Blackbird Studio that has housed everyone from Kid Rock to The Raconteurs, just 85 miles from their hometown of Edmonton, Kentucky. “We incorporated regional sounds into the mix throughout the album,” says Young. The band used turkey calls, a banjo and a washtub basin, among other things. Jon Lawhon recalls, "I made a washtub bass out of a tub, a broom handle and nylon rope!" Clearly, the band shyed away from absolutely nothing when it came time to explore and experiment. "We didn't want to leave any door unopened while recording," says guitarist/vocalist Ben Wells.
Years of touring in support of their self-titled debut helped inspire and direct Black Stone Cherry's worldview when it came time to write the new album. The band traveled extensively outside the United States during the tour cycle on their 2006 self-titled debut. This allowed them to stretch their creative muscle and flap their musical wings even higher, with songs like "Please Come In" and “Sunrise” that show the band's growth and diversity.
"This album has allowed us to dig deep into our roots," continues Young. "It also shows the influences of the songwriting. Our band is a positive band and we try to write songs that are uplifting. We also have a very big storytelling side which comes through on the songs 'Ghost of Floyd Collins’ and ‘Reverend Wrinkle.’"
Vocalist/guitarist Chris Robertson reflects on the process, saying, “Starting out as a band seven years ago, with high hopes and even bigger dreams, I honestly believe this record shows the experience of our past travels, and gives a hint of the future. It captures all the energy and heart that make up Black Stone Cherry. We took some chances on this album and I believe that our fans will appreciate seeing the other sides of the band that they may or may not have known existed.”
Guitarist/vocalist Ben Wells comments on the band’s expansion of its sound and subject matter, saying "The songwriting took on a life of its own, as the structures of the songs themselves have grown so much from touring. We have so much more to talk about and can use the things we picked up musically.” He admits the band also kept the ladies in mind this time around, recalling, “On the last album, girls would come up to us and say, 'You have songs for guys, so where are our songs?’ So we have a song called 'You' on this album, which is a timeless ballad."
The band’s family and friends are another influence. "Long Sleeves" is told from the viewpoint of a friend who took part in the battle of Mogadishu as featured in the film “Black Hawk Down,” while "Things My Father Said" is a ballad that hits home with people from all walks of life.
From the eerie swagger of “Devil’s Queen” to the tell tale rocker “Blind Man” to the triumphant stomp of the anthem “Soul Creek,” Black Stone Cherry say the trick to Folklore and Superstition is simply brotherhood, family, friends and home; no more, no less.