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ky bscBlack Stone Cherry
Kentucky
Barrick Studios: Edmonton, KY
Mascot Label Group
Available: April 1, 2016
BlackStoneCherry.com

“So turn the radio up when your heart breaks down.”

Rock n’ roll. Southern. Hard. Dirty. Grungy. But, sometimes soft. Ballad-esque. That’s who they are. And they’re perfectly comfortable with that. Opting not to experiment that much with their solidified iconic sound, Black Stone Cherry continues to pledge allegiance to their musical roots by returning to the very studio where they first recorded Rock-n-Roll Tape, their first EP in 2003, recorded at Barrick Studios in Glasgow, Kentucky. The same studio they would eventually record their first self-titled major release via Roadrunner Records, now 10 years ago. It’s fair to refer to this album as a “roots” endeavor, right?

Most of the album is a metaphorical product of its time, both for the band personally, and our generation as a whole. They waste no time showing that sentiment on the opener, with “The Way of the Future.” Filing some well-timed complaints about greasy politicians, BSC wales of the semi-dystopian state of our current reality with heavy washed-out guitar riffs and bone-crunching percussion that emulates the frustration we all feel.

A cover of Edwin Starr’s 60’s classic “War” is a doggone epic rendition of the original, and represents the Doo Wop and Soul influence that was bestowed onto the band by way of drummer John Fred Young’s musical familial heritage, father and uncle of grammy award winning Kentucky Headhunters. Nonetheless, the song’s appearance on the album feels like another well-timed political statement they’re making overall. I’m pretty sure I’m hitting the nail on the head with this assertion.

Ok, I gotta wrap this shit up. I’m rambling, but speaking of which, “The Rambler” is probably the most heartfelt and tear-jerking song these boys have ever written, “Cheaper To Drink Alone” is not only true, but a damn good rock-junkie song to drink to, and “Soul Machine” is another guitar-solo-fueled example of their soul influence.

Theoretically, every album released by Black Stone Cherry could’ve been called “Kentucky.”
Why?
Dumb question.
Because that’s what these boys are – in and out, thru and thru. 
Ken-FUCKIN-tucky.
OK?
Just like the crazy BASTARD who scribbled this review.

*Reviewed under extreme duress of Vanilla Stoli and Diet Coke by Jason Ashcraft

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Louder Than Life Festival crowd at East Stage - Photo by Jason Ashcraft

Louder Than Life Festival crowd at East Stage – Photo by Jason Ashcraft

The second year of the Louder Than Life festival is now officially in the books and I am officially done with this music scene until, perhaps, next year. The gargantuan-sized metal and rock n’ roll music and gourmet man-food extravaganza still has my fucking ears ringing, my clothes still half covered in mud, and that post-concert hangover feeling that I’ve not had since my 20’s. I don’t know if I am wishing that maybe I had indulged just a little more or a little less, at this point. I can’t decide.

Over 50,000 people in two short days flocked to the festival, like droves of wild animals trying to cram their way onto Noah’s arc. According to festival organizers, over 70% of these metalhead and rock n’ roll bastards came from outside Louisville’s city limits. “Bastards” being a word I totally threw in there myself, not the festival. For clarification. And we all experienced the gamut of what Louisville weather can dish out in 48 hour period. Cold, cloudy and rainy one day, and sunny and hot the next. Welcome to the Ohio Valley, folks.

Saturday, 3 October: Muddy Metal Mayhem

So, like I said, tens of thousands of these metalhead bastards spent most of the day stomping around in the mud, the mosh pits, with booze in-hand, avoiding roving packs of security and police, and generally just humping and living the typical American metalhead dream. Whiskey-bent. Hellbound. Making beasts of themselves for a few short hours. Some screaming obscenities at random passer-byers and some at the bands. Some so self-absorbed into the music that nothing else around them really existed. Everyone seemingly losing their minds to the overly-decibeled carnage of America’s most notorious metal and hard rock acts that FM radio stations, MTV and other mainstream media outlets have spent decades force-feeding their fans with.

Sevendust, one of the lesser-overplayed, and more talented acts on the docket, turned in a short, yet tight set, that included an old-school cut “Denial,” and also the newly released “Not Today” off their latest album Kill The Flaw. Just one question, though, guys: that new album title isn’t a subliminal reference to what you intend to do to a certain newly-reunited metal band from Louisville, is it? Probably not, but had to make a joke out of that. Moving on…

The biggest treat of the day came with Chevelle – who mesmerized with musical precision like only a brother-band could do – and went deep into their catalogue with cuts like “Forfeit” and “The Red.” Of course Chevelle probably couldn’t get off stage without playing “Send The Pain Below,” and so they did. Perfectly so.

Then came veteran metal horror rocker Rob Zombie. With pictures of classic horror movie characters as his stage background along with shitty, negative, certain one-word terms I’m not going to report on, Zombie lambasted his fans with his iconic groove-metal style that only he can pull off the way he does it. Somewhat surprisingly, he opened with a romping and rousing take of Grand Funk Railroad’s “We’re An American Band” before blistering through his own set of 20+ year solo and White Zombie cuts. I’d also be remiss to mention that he totally killed it on his take of a James Brown classic, “Get Up (I Feel Like Being) a Sex Machine.”

Sunday, 4 October: More Sun, More Fun and Interviews!

The last thing I needed on Sunday afternoon to nurse a metal-induced, late Saturday night hangover was another several hour onslaught of cookie-monster singer’s bands. Sorry, but that’s what some unmentioned Saturday acts really sound like at times.

Nonetheless, day two brought better weather, sunny skies, warmer temperatures and a more classic rock n’ roll, and overall friendly vibe. The crowd, noticeably tamer, perhaps as hungover as I was, got a dose of rock n’ roll from the likes of ZZ Top (who I regrettably bailed on), Slash, Breaking Benjamin, Shinedown, Black Stone Cherry, Kentucky Headhunters, Collective Soul and Skid Row, amongst several others.

One metal band, in particular, hailing from Louisville, and who’s in the midst of launching a new comeback tour, FLAW, also performed on this day. On the wrong stage, though, if you ask me. They should’ve been next door on the much larger East stage, all things considered. Nonetheless, they delivered exactly what they’re longtime loyal fanbase still flocks to see them for: metal with catchy melodies.

I actually had the chance to catch up with FLAW after their set, and here is what they had to say about getting back together again and what the future holds:

And of course I also had to pay homage to another set of Kentucky music icons, the Kentucky Headhunters and Black Stone Cherry, who both hail from the hollers of Edmonton, Kentucky in Metcalfe County. Just a few hours south of Louisville. Before their sets I had the chance to sit down and interview Richard Young (Kentucky Headhunters) and John Fred Young (BSC), for a cool first time ever father-son interview between the two. Check out what I made them jabber about when asked what guitar they’d break vs. play, and who they hope becomes President:

Black Stone Cherry went on to amass a hometown crowd that better resembled what they typically play to in the UK and other European tour destinations. I mean, fucking Jimmy Page shows up regularly to their shows in the UK to hang out and watch them. This was the biggest crowd I’ve seen them play in their home state, and I‘ve seen them play countless times since 2002 when I first met them in the basement of the old Jillians on Lexington Avenue here in Louisville. Those guys were maybe 16 to 18 at the time, and being escorted by Richard Young who was their manager. Gee, how things have changed for them since those days.

Black Stone Cherry crowd at Louder Than Life festival 2015 - Photo by Jason Ashcraft

Black Stone Cherry crowd at Louder Than Life festival 2015 – Photo by Jason Ashcraft

I love to see Kentucky musicians and artists exporting their creations outside of the state. The Young family of musicians has always done a fine job of doing just that, by keeping both the national and international communities aware that it’s not just bourbon, horses and fast women that come from Kentucky! But kick-ass, boot-scootin, southern rock n’ roll music does, too!

So Let’s Wrap this Shit Up

LTL is one of those festivals that when you honestly proclaim, like I remember doing in the middle of a rum-fit to some dude: that you’re “one crazy bastard,” people will be like “that’s good to hear!” And they mean it. They’re not bullshitting you. That’s what it’s all about. Being crazy bastards listening to loud-ass, rage-a-holic metal and rock n’ roll music. Together. With fancy gourmet $8 hot dogs – or some other gourmet man-food items of choice in one hand – and some sort of whiskey or beer concoction in the other. Screaming at everything and everyone around you. Pretending that one day, maybe you’ll be on that stage.

I’m guessing that’s why they call this festival Louder Than Life. And hold it in good ole’ Louisville, Kentucky, where this kind of loud behavior will be happily tolerated, no matter what you set the decibel level to, in exchange for the extra tax dollar revenue it will generate.

Welcome to Louisville, Louder Than Life! I’m sure you’ll continue to fit right in.

Selah.

“The music business is a cruel and shallow money trench, a long plastic hallway where thieves and pimps run free, and good men die like dogs. There’s also a negative side.”

— Hunter S. Thompson

**These interviews and coverage  also published at GonzoToday.com

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Black Stone Cherry 2014

Magic Mountain Album Artwork

Black Stone Cherry
Magic Mountain
Roadrunner Records

Produced by: Joe Barresi www.BlackStoneCherry.com

Much like they did when they first formed in 2001, Kentucky’s Black Stone Cherry has recorded an album that essentially reiterates their stylistic roots as a band. Hard. Southern. Rock-n-roll. Maybe in that order, and maybe their best recorded effort ever. Considering they are probably Southern Rock’s unofficial-official torch-bearers.

However, somewhat unlike their youthful formative elementary days, Magic Mountain’s topics are a bit more college’y, highlighted by moments of verbal sultry bluntness more so than their previous three releases. Perhaps so blatantly, that we can go ahead and officially add “stoner-rock” to their growing list of genre identifiers.

The opening track, “Holding On To Letting Go,” sets a fast pace that rarely slows down throughout the album. Between the first single, “Me and Mary Jane,” or other tunes like “Peace Pipe” or the album’s title cut, there are enough marijuana-friendly references for this recording collection to be a modern day Cheech and Chong movie soundtrack. Where C&C go to Kentucky. Theoretically.

Of course, a Black Stone(d) Cherry album is never really complete until, in prideful anthemic-fashion, there’s a song which glorifies their home state of Kentucky. A place they’re not ashamed from being. The tune this time is “Hollywood In Kentucky” where the guys proclaim that “KFC would still be Kentucky Fried Chicken” and where “you get your ass kicked if you talk about my mother.”

And that song closes out with an instrumental guitar-fueled bluegrass’ish jam session.

Word.

Key Tracks: “Me and Mary Jane” “Dance Girl” “Fiesta Del Fuego” “Hollywood In Kentucky”

This review also published at PerformerMag.com and in Performer Magazine’s July 2014 issue. 

 

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Over the years Dwight Yoakam has been known for putting on massively entertaining live performances. After last Friday’s performance at Horseshoe Casino’s Showroom, that reputation is likely to carry on.

Yoakam came onstage just after 8:00 pm, and was decked out in a all denim ensemble with his traditional spandex tight jeans over what I’m sure were suede cowboy boots. He had a diamond pleated ace-spade-club-heart denim jacket, and his typical tan cowboy hat, which kept his eyes tucked away from everyone but his band mates. He’s one mysterious, and somewhat “classy” redneck dude if I may say.

He opened with a few songs that I didn’t recognize by name, but were recognizable by ear. Regardless of trying to figure out the song names, I focused more on the band’s stage antics and performance style of Yoakam and band. Bassist Jonathan Clark, almost immediately after arriving on stage made friends with a pretty little blonde about three rows back as he struck flirtatious poses for her while she snapped away on her camera.

Lead guitarist Eddie Perez (formerly of The Mavericks) also played with a lot of animation. Almost always in a constant state of motion, Perez added in many exclamatory moves that corresponded with instrumental change-ups and the notes he was hitting on his Fender Telecaster. The guy could just flat-out play and was an asset to the ears as much as he was to the eyes.

As for Yoakam, he just pretty much danced and strutted his way around the stage with guitar in-hand and striking as many of his iconic take-a-picture-of-me-now guitar poses as he could.

Five songs into the set came his 2005 hit “Blame The Vain” which finally stimulated the crowd to make some noise and sing along.

But I was still mainly focused on the actual performance style and stage antics that Yoakam and band brought to the stage. Like when Yoakam broke a guitar string at mid-song, his bandmates immediately recognizing it almost as if string breaks are rehearsed situations, and they carry on instrumentally with the song until Yoakam has changed out a new guitar.

And then, contrarily, an out-of-tune guitar was discovered after the start of “Little Sister.” For a brief moment I thought Yoakam was going to erupt into Doyle mode, as his tech took a little grief for handing him the wrong guitar for the song. Keeping his cool, Yoakam immediately got back to business and proceeded with playing the song.

Yoakam also gave a twangy and bluesy performance of “This Time,” a crowd-pleasing version of “Honky Tonk Man,” and an almost unrecognizable take on Johnny Cash’s “Ring of Fire” which I didn’t even realize it was till the end of the song.

High energy versions of “Guitars, Cadillacs” and “Fast As You” came to be the set closers once Yoakam and band kinda half-ass walked off stage after playing the songs. The crowd, not accepting that this was the true end of the show, kept yelling and screaming for more. Of course Yoakam and band knew they were coming back for an encore, and so did the audience. But that’s the formality of a live performance, right? It’s not an actual encore until the band walks offstage and then reemerges again shortly thereafter. And that they did. Anxiously grabbing their instruments again, Yoakam finally introduced his band by name and then played “Since I Started Drinking Again,” which perpetuated me to order one last drink for the night.

Yoakam’s two hour performance would finally conclude with a hard rocking version of “Long White Cadillac,” which he strummed out to perfection on his Epiphone Casino guitar. Some of Yoakam’s stage antics during this song’s performance left you wondering if the song was actually about a car. Hmm. Good ole’ Dwight.

* This review also published at Louisville.com

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Last Saturday’s monsoon-like thunder storm parted ways and went around Fort Knox. At least so it seemed as I made the trek down Gene Snyder Freeway en route to one of the U.S. Army’s most iconic military installations to see Kansas and the Doobie Brothers. With each passing mile the sky became more clear and the wind more calm. The show must go on.

Arriving at Fort Knox’s main gate traffic was quickly directed right into Godman Airfield where you were actually allowed to drive right down the main tarmac some several hundred yards. “What the hell?” I thought to myself as I pushed my gas pedal to the floorboard and took advantage of the desolate airstrip before me.

A massive stage was positioned right next to the air traffic control tower and air hanger #1, which helped give a bit of an authentic vibe for seeing a concert on a military base.

As expected, MP’s were just about everywhere you turned and ushering people along like cattle in between a maze of yellow barriers. Once led into the stage area those yellow barriers then became blockades several hundred feet in front of the stage and was reinforced by a neat row of MP’s behind them. The production staff was still finishing their sound checks. Then, over the PA system, a stage announcer says “All right folks, were gonna open the barriers up here in a second. Please make your way to the stage in an orderly fashion.” Yeah, right. As soon the barriers were removed a mad dash of several thousand people equipped with folding chairs, beers, and hot dogs ensued as everyone vied for a front row seat. Not hardly the “orderly fashion” requested.

Kansas, not Dilana, led off the night to an eager crowd who had just stampeded their way to get an up-close glimpse of the classic rockers.


Kansas – photo by Ross Lister

With a pinkish twilight of the sun setting as their stage backdrop, Kansas took their audience through their somewhat limited, yet popular, handful of hit singles that the original Kansas had written in the late 70’s and 80’s. “Carry On Wayward Son,” “Point Of No Return,” “Fight Fire With Fire,” and of course the song that made Kansas a household name in classic rock “Dust In The Wind” were amongst the songs performed. The best part of Kansas this day and age? Violinist David Ragsdale. He’s one bad mofo on the fiddle.


Kansas – photo by Ross Lister

The crowd was good and “primed” by the time the Doobie Brothers were set to take the stage and had only logged one skirmish that MP’s had to break-up. Once the Doobies appeared onstage the crowd erupted in anticipation as the band opened with “Jesus Is Just Alright.”


The Doobie Brothers – photo by Ross Lister

The Doobies are known for their perfect mix of harmonious vocals and blazing guitar solos by both Tom Johnston and Patrick Simmons, two of the band’s original and founding members who are still the heart and soul of the band. Their performance on this night offered no shortage of the Doobies iconic style as they performed songs from their early days like “Takin’ It To The Streets,” “Black Water,” and “Long Train Runnin”.


The Doobie Brothers – photo by Ross Lister

They also threw in a mix of newer songs from their 2010 album World Gone Crazy with the title track, “Chateau” and “Nobody” which came with an impressive guitar solo by Johnston.

The only regret for the night was the sudden and untimely canceling by Lynyrd Skynyrd due to an ailing Johnny Van Zant. Hopefully they will schedule a make-up show because I’m sure I wasn’t the only person in the crowd that was just dying to have a valid reason to scream out “Play some Skynyrd man!” Maybe that chance will still be in store in the not-so-distant future.

*Photos by Ross Lister & Jason Ashcraft

** This review also published at Louisville.com

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Artwork by Jeral Tidwell

Last summer, country-rock musician Bryan Fox was looking for a way to boost his annual Halloween benefit party called “Fox Bash,” which benefits The Smile Train. Fox, who is also a Dentist by day, wanted to host one of the city’s biggest bands to play it. He then connected himself with Kentucky hip-hoppers, Nappy Roots, through his musician friends in Louisville. Initially, he thought it may be a bit of a long-shot for them to be available on the exact day he had the party scheduled for. But to his surprise, not only were Nappy Roots happy and able to play his Halloween benefit event, but they also started liking Fox’s music that he wrote. After working together to lay tracks down in May for “Countryfied State of Mind”, today they are releasing the song via iTunes, Amazon, and other digital music outlets.

Officially, those collaborating on this project have been Clutch, Big V, and B.Stille from Nappy Roots, along with Louisville musicians Bryan Fox on vocals/guitar, Ryan Murphy on Drums, Kevin McCreery on guitar, and Chip Adams on Bass. 

“This song is just different,” Fox comments. “I am a writer that really generally tries to go for the deep meaningful lyrics a lot of times, but this song is pure fun. I would think its one of the most commercial songs I’ve written for sure though.”

From left: Chip Adams, Slick, B.Stille, Bryan Fox, Ryan Murphy, Kevin McCreery, Clutch

As you probably have already anticipated, “Countryfied State of Mind” is a blend of hip-hop and alt-country rock with a modern chorus that aims to get stuck in your head. Fox leads on both vocals and guitar during the chorus, and then the Nappy Roots guys each crafted their own verses to the song. It has kind of a fun and festive feel to it, much like the way that DJ Jazzy Jeff & the Fresh Prince’s “Summertime” had to it, but with a redneck’ish Kentucky-inspired pop-country flair.

Fox & Nappy Roots are also in collaboration on more music, so “Countryfied State of Mind” isn’t a one-and-done release. 

“We are thinking of doing at least 5 songs together,” Fox states. “Countryfied State of Mind has gotten us all excited to create more music. There is a freshness and an energy to this collaboration that is hard to ignore.”

Speaking on the current release Fox says, “The song speaks for itself. It’s a fun summer song that makes you want to drink a beer and party at the lake. Lets hope a lot of people like to do that!”

Interview with Clutch, B.Stille from Nappy Roots & Bryan Fox on 5-11-11

This review also published at Louisville.com

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