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Black Stone Cherry's Family Tree: Chris Robertson's track-by-track guide

(Image credit: Harry Reese)
Black Stone Cherry - Family Tree

Bad Habit
Burnin'
New Kinda Feelin'
Carry Me On Down The Road
My Last Breath
Southern Fried Friday Night
Dancin' In The Rain (featuring Warren Haynes)
Ain't Nobody
James Brown
You Got The Blues
I Need A Woman
Get Me Over You
Family Tree 

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"You can hear the fun in the music," says Black Stone Cherry frontman Chris Robertson. "You can hear that we aren't taking ourselves too seriously. And if you're not having fun in this business, there's no point."

Robertson is talking about Family Tree, the band's upbeat new album. A combination of personal issues and a change of record label meant that the band's last album, Kentucky, was riven with a streak of dark anger, but last year's Black To Blues EP was very much a step towards resolution.   

"We had a bunch of ideas that were more along the lines of the Kentucky record, and then we did the blues EP," says Robertson. "We just loved doing that record, and we ended up going back and starting from scratch." 

The result is Family Tree, a record that's more the sum of their influences than anything the band have released before, from the Zeppelin-esque intro on You Got The Blues to the swaggering seventies boogie of Ain't Nobody.    

"This record is something new, and something special for us, and it's really different," says Robertson. "It's still 100% Black Stone Cherry, but it's got some really unique qualities that we've never really out out there before."

Bad Habit

"This song came about in a soundcheck. We were opening up for Lynyrd Skynyrd in Kentucky, and I plugged in my guitar and just played that opening riff. It was the first thing that popped into my head. The band said, 'man, record that riff on your phone so you don't forget it!' And lo and behold, about a month later we started writing songs, and the song blossomed. It's kind of a Johnny Winter feel on the intro, and the verse has this Hendrix-y thing, there's a little Thin Lizzy on the chorus, and there's a ZZ Top-style breakdown. It's a melting pot of all our influences."

Burnin'

"Burnin' was one of the first songs we wrote for the new record. It's just one of those feel-good rock'n'roll songs. It's a out a good-lookin' woman, it's got some nice twin guitars... it's pretty straight-ahead!"

New Kinda Feelin'

"One of my favourite songs on the record. It's got something different, you know? It's got a really cool guitar riff, and the piano underneath the guitar riff is cool, but there's a lot of space in this music. Everyone's parts do their thing. When the verse comes in Ben's playing one thing, Jon's playing one thing, the piano's doing one thing, and I'm doing something totally different. It's a lot of fun. And then, in the bridge – in the guitar solo section – we take it somewhere you completely wouldn't expect. It's almost like a tribal, full-steam ahead kind of thing."

Carry Me On Down The Road

"Another one of my absolute favourites from the album. It may be one of the top five songs we've ever written. It's one of the most musical things we've ever written. It flows up and down, and there's a lot of dynamics. It's a pain in the ass to sing and play, but it's a lot of fun! You really hear the jam band influences coming through: bands like Gov't Mule and The Allman Brothers."

My Last Breath

"This song is very near and dear to my heart. This first verse is talking about me meeting my now-wife, when we were in high school, and now we've got a son. The second verse is talking about my grandfather passing away. Basically, it boils down to when the only thing you have left in the world to give anybody is what you would say to them with your last words. For me, it would be to tell my boy how much I loved him, and how much I loved his mom." 

Southern Fried Friday Night

"We wrote Southern Fried Friday Night with a friend of ours who plays drums for a country artist, Jason Aldean. His name's Rich Redmond. We wrote the song several years ago, and it was different then, and we reimagined it when we were in the studio. That slinky guitar part that carries the verse was a last minute thing. I just kinda happened. We hit record, and when the verse came in I ended up playing that instead of the original part."

Dancin' In The Rain

"This is an awesome one, if nothing else for the fact that we got one of our heroes to be on the record with us. Warren Haynes is a member of Gov't Mule and the Allman Brothers (and the Warren Haynes Band). We reached out to Warren, who we'd met a few times, and asked if he'd like to be a part of the record. We sent him the song, and he said, 'I'd love to be ion it!'. So we talked back and forth about what parts he would sing, and where we wanted him to play guitar. When I sent the test mix to the rest of the guys in the bands, I also sent it to Warren. I got a phone call back and he loved it. His only comment was that he wanted his guitar a little brighter." 

Ain't Nobody

"Ain't Nobody is wild, man. It's like a boogie song, but I've tried to think think who I could compare it to, but I can't think of anything. It's got elements of your classic seventies boogie rock'n'roll – bands like Cactus and Trapeze, even Bad Company and Free – but it's also kind this southern gospel thing. It's just one of those fun songs, and we did a fade out on the record, which is just awesome!"

James Brown

"We came up with the bass for this song at John Fred's house when we were jamming. Ben had the guitar riff, and we had the idea for the song and the chorus. We went home that night, and I woke up the next morning singing this melody. I made a shitty recording on my iPhone, and called John Fred and said, 'dude, I'm gonna send you something, but I'm gonna sing you something first.' I sung it, and he said, 'dude, that's so cool.' And we finished writing the song at the next rehearsal."

You Got The Blues

"I actually got my little boy on this song. He's five years old, and he and my wife came by the studio one day. I was rough mixing, and said to him, 'hey man! come up here and do me a favour!' And I set him up on my microphone. I'd sing the line to him, and he'd sing it back to me. And it ended up being this really cool harmony, with him singing against what I'm singing, his voice on one side and mine on the other. I think it's the most Zeppelin-esque thing we've done – as far as the guitar intro goes – but then it goes to a whole different place: More of a Foghat groove." 

I Need A Woman

"This is our blues rock song. It's the song that's inspired most by the great blues rock bands, like Free, Bad Company and the Winter groups. It's basically a blues song with a chorus, which shifts the song in a different direction for a minute, but it comes right back round again. This song is what it says: you don't need a girl, you need a woman."

Get Me Over You

"Another song we wrote several years ago. We wrote it with a couple of guys in Nashville in 2015, something like that. We'd never really thought about recording it, but our manager said we should revisit it. We did it exactly as we'd written it years ago, but we added in a big breakdown section with all these percussion instruments and the reggae-ish vocals. It was just a whole lotta fun to record."

Family Tree

"This is the grand total of everything we've seen and been through after 17 years in a band and 12 being in the business as professionals. The lyrics are pretty cut and dried: out of all this stuff that you see and do, the only thing that's of amy real importance is going back home. The way I look at life is if you don't have anything to go home to, you don't really have much to begin with. For me, that's always the light at the end of the tunnel. No matter how hard life gets on the road, no matter how much I want to go home and hug my boy, I know that I get to. 

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Fraser Lewry

Online Editor at Louder/Classic Rock magazine since 2014. 35 years in music industry, online for 22. Also bylines for: Metal Hammer, Prog Magazine, The Word Magazine, The Guardian, The New Statesman, Saga, Music365. Favourite Serbian trumpeter: Dejan Petrović. Likes cats.