Even when it comes to rock ‘n’ roll — especially when it comes to rock ‘n’ roll — there’s a legacy that’s carried forward, a reverence and relevance that informs the musical mission.
Black Stone Cherry is an excellent example of being part of that timeless trajectory. Drummer John Fred Young is the offspring of another well-known musician, Richard Young of the band The Kentucky Headhunters. Consequently, it was no surprise that when this newer Kentucky quartet first gelled, his dad’s band loaned them its rehearsal space.
After trying unsuccessfully to come up with a name, the band finally settled on Black Stone Cherry, a flavor of Tiparillo — that short, thin and milder variation of a cigar that many of their friends smoked in certain social situations.
“It’s really got a bad taste,” singer and guitarist Chris Robertson said. “But it is a great name for a band.”
Flash forward 18 years and Black Stone Cherry — Young, Robertson, guitarist Ben Wells and bassist Jon Lawhon — can claim a storied history of their own. With half a dozen studio albums, eight successful singles on the rock charts and tours alongside such musical heavyweights as Def Leppard, Nickelback, Whitesnake, Lynyrd Skynyrd and Bad Company, they’ve become a staple among the hard rock set. Their goal, Robertson said, is all about creating “intensity” and to be “the most bad-ass band out there.
“If we can give our audience at least a momentary escape from the hardships that most of us deal with on a daily basis, then I feel like we’ve accomplished our job,” he said. “At the same time, we just want to make the music we want to make. If we’re having a good time up there on stage, the audience will pick up on it and they’ll have a good time, too.”
Known for an emphatic, energetic approach in its concert, the band pays particular attention to maintaining that exuberance on its studio albums as well. Still, Robertson insists that the group also makes it a point not to overthink things at the same time.
“When we go in the studio, we let the music lead us where it wants to go,” he said. “That’s how our songs take shape. We absolutely believe in the beauty of simplicity.”
That said, the musicians have no problem finding — and then mining — a muse.
“We do a lot of writing on the back of our bus,” Robertson explained. “We’re always in touch with our creative spark. One of us might come up with a riff at soundcheck, and then we’ll walk off the stage and write a song. We’ve literally written entire songs between a soundcheck and the gig. It’s a lot of fun that way.”
Except for a hiatus taken in 2014, the band has maintained its nonstop touring regimen for the better part of the past two decades. However Robertson also admits it’s not always easy.
We all have families now,” he said. “Sometimes it’s hard when you’re getting ready to leave on tour and your kid comes up to you and says, ‘Daddy, do you really have to go?’ We really are thankful for the face time we have with our fans, but I do take my hat off to the bands that did it before us because I know how difficult it can be.”
Still, Robertson said that the band makes it a point to go out and personally greet their fans after a show.
“We wouldn’t have jobs if it wasn’t for them,” he added. “People pay good money to come to the shows. So that’s why we try to come out and meet everybody. It’s a way of showing our appreciation that they showed up.”
He gave particular kudos to The Shed, where the group will perform Saturday night. Robertson said that the group considers it one of the top concert venues in the country, aside from being one of the band’s favorite places to play.
Ultimately, Robertson said the band simply enjoys making music. When asked if after 18 years on the road Black Smoke Cherry hopes to continue doing the same for another 18 years, Robertson brushes aside any hint that there’s a limitation.
“I don’t think we’d be content with 18 years,” he responds, “Why only 18 years? We’d like to be doing this for at least 40 more. Look at the Rolling Stones. In three years, they’ll mark their 60th anniversary. They’re still doing it in their 70s. Likewise, we’re just amazed to be here at this particular time. We’re all about the longevity of making music.”