Black Stone Cherry bring a taste of Kentucky to Portsmouth Guildhall

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Simon Emmett

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Black Stone Cherry have called their latest tour Experience Kentucky, after their new album that pays tribute to their home state.

But anyone expecting bluegrass and bourbon will be out of luck – on the first half of the equation at any rate, as this four-piece likes to rock hard.

And they’ve been embraced by the UK – their last tour here packed out arenas. This current tour is a conscious choice to play smaller, more intimate venues, and in this case that means a mere 2,000 at Portsmouth Guildhall.

WOW247 caught up with bassist Jon Lawhon as the band were returning from playing a show to marines at their base in Cherry Point, North Carolina.

‘They were nuts – pretty much everyone was in the moshpit by the second song. They’re all younger guys, like 19-20 and they make me look like I’m 12, but they’re super-respectful and on top of their game.’

Jon explains the new tour: ‘We’ve got all kinds of cool little tricks up our sleeves for this tour, it’s going to be a whole lot of Black Stone Cherry – there’s no other bands playing, so it’s two hours of us.

We’ve got all kinds of cool little tricks up our sleeves for this tour, it’s going to be a whole lot of Black Stone Cherry

‘It’s smaller venues on this tour, but still a decent size, so it’s going to feel like a big time show, like it should, but small enough that it can still keep an intimate vibe.’

Kentucky is the band’s fifth album and the first since they split with long-time record label, Roadrunner, and it gave the band a chance to reconnect with their roots.

Things came to a head with the label after it was taken over by Atlantic and, as Jon puts it, ‘they went from being the largest independent rock label to the rock department for a major corporate label, so that changed things immensely.’

After returning home on a high after their first UK arena tour, they found label support for them Stateside was minimal, so they fired off an ‘unsavoury’ e-mail.

‘They didn’t like it very much,’ recalls Jon with a laugh, ‘and from there it was: “I think we should part ways”, and we were like: “Thank you, good bye!”’

‘With the change of labels, and all the changes that have gone on in our camp since that first album, we wanted to kind of return to our roots and collect our thoughts and the only way to do that would be to go back where we’re from.

‘We went and recorded the album by ourselves and it’s a return to who were are. This was also the first time we’ve taken the production reins ourselves.’

While the band have attained a modicum of success at home, it’s in Europe that they’ve really taken off. Does he know why? ‘I really don’t! There’s something about the people over there, you guys pay attention to the genuine nature of the ban. If it’s fake, if it’s artificial, if it’s songs written about something the band has no clue about, you don’t attach yourselves to it.

‘It’s almost like you guys are for more educated about music than people back here.’

We’ll take that.

Portsmouth Guildhall

Monday, November 21

portsmouthguildhall.org.uk