"We went on a real deep dive back into our roots" - Black Stone Cherry talk new album Family Tree
Over the course of their career, southern fried rockers Black Stone Cherry have become a formidable outfit. Unashamedly devoted to loud guitars, bluesy solos and lyrical tales of cold beer and hard partying from their home state of Kentucky, they’ve cut their own path in rock music.
Now back with their sixth studio album Family Tree, which arrives on shelves today (you can purchase it on the right-hand side of the page), the band have stuck to their guns, recording in their hometown in a converted mechanics and fully embracing the bluesier end of their sound.
To find out how they did it, we spoke to drummer John Fred Young...
How did you want Family Tree to move on from you’ve done in the past?
“We wanted it to sell more!”
“We’re very proud of the record and very proud of the fact that we’re growing as a band and we’ve never made the same record twice. We recorded it in Glasgow, Ben’s (Wells, lead guitarist) hometown, which just across from where Jon (Lawhorn, bass) and I live in Edmonton. We had the same engineer, David Barrick, who did our first record and our last record Kentucky.”
“He’s got this new place in town, it’s an old car garage and the sounds are incredible! The drum room is this grimy concrete workshop and it sounds amazing, it’s the best my drums have ever sounded. I’ve been in some incredible studios, but this was the best. It was fun to make. We had a lot of our buddies over all the time. Every night was a big party.”
Did you have a sound in mind for the record?
“Everybody knows we’re big southern rock guys, we love British classic rock and blues and Motown and we really got a chance to bring that stuff to the surface on this album. After we left Roadrunner Records we really felt like we could get out of that mould, just going after what was on radio and we were able to stretch our wings. We went on a real deep dive back into our roots.”
You’d dabbled in the blues in 2017 for your Back To Blues EP too…
“That was something that we just did for fun. We did some of the coolest blues covers we could think of, we picked six classics, recorded them in six days and it went Number One on the Billboard Blues Chart. That blew our minds. That community really embraced it, our take on those songs. We were able to go back into the record we loved, Delta Blues, Robert Johnson, so much Motown, ZZ Top and channelled that into our music.”
Is it easy to get a record done when you’re recording in your hometown? Lots of bands have to head deep in the countryside to be able to concentrate…
“We already live in the countryside! There’s no city to escape! We live about an hour and a half away from the nearest city. I mean we’ve done records in Hollywood and in Nashville and they were great. But recording in your backyard just gives you a comfort that you can’t get when you’re away from home. We grew up playing in this two-room old house and we’re still pretty lo-fi. We’re country boys and we can’t help it, recording in an old car garage is perfect for us.”
What kind of album is this lyrically?
“I think there are a few themes, plenty of deep stuff. You can hear a lot of James Brown too. One of my favourites is ‘Dancing In The Rain’, which we got Warren Haynes of Government Mule to sing on. You’ve got your classic Black Stone Cherry songs like ‘Southern Fried Friday Night’, it’s a great party song. I think our records have a multi-dimensional lyrical aspect because all four of us write, it’s just putting it all together on an album that’s tough!”
When did you decide on Family Tree for the album title?
“We had the song and we thought it was very fitting. We’re not old by any means, but we’re not green anymore. We’re becoming seasoned. We’ve all got kids. The longer we play together the closer we get as brothers, so it reflected that. I can’t remember there being any other titles, it solidified pretty quickly. It’s a great album closer too.”
Finally, how’s your live set coming together? You’ve got six records to choose from now…
“It’s hard, very hard. We’re moving towards two hours now when we headline, so that’s not too bad. There are songs we have to play, we have to play ‘Blame It On The Boom Boom’, ‘White Trash Millionaire’ and ‘Runaway Train’, those are our staples. But sometimes, we know what we start with and then we’ll just call it, people can scream out songs, Chris (Robertson, singer) will look at us and go ‘You wanna do it?’ and we’ll do it. We’ve been playing together so long that we can just keep going, we can jam between songs and it’s never the same. That’s what rock and roll should be about.”