John Fred Young

by Bob Girouard

John Fred Young

Black Stone Cherry’s rhythm ace rages at home and abroad

Anyone who’s checked out Black Stone Cherry’s music videos might be surprised to learn that in conversation, the man who plays drums like a god of thunder is an absolute Southern gentleman. “We were very fortunate to be from a small town where family and friends count,” the Edmonton, Kentucky, native tells MD after landing in London’s Heathrow Airport for the start of the band’s Carnival of Madness tour. “In the beginning we were playing small rooms of about a hundred capacity, and the promoters didn’t even know we were on the bill.” No such problem these days for the band, which continues to build upon its already significant fan base in America, Europe, and beyond.

After returning to the States in April and May, BSC heads to Australia for a handful of dates, where it will continue to introduce fans to tracks from its brand-new collection, Kentucky. The album leads with “The Way of the Future,” which busts out of the gate with a distorted-sounding but cleanly executed press roll. “I grew up loving Buddy Rich, Gene Krupa, Max Roach, Louie Bellson…and I got all that from Fred,” Young says, referring to his uncle Fred Young, drummer for the Kentucky HeadHunters. “Initially I wanted to play double bass drums, because I thought it was cool, but I wasn’t really that good. What I did do was take my right foot and right hand and build up single- and double-stroke rolls, which I eventually was able to do with either hand.

“John Bonham was one of my biggest drum heroes,” John Fred adds, explaining the source of some of his favorite licks. “He hit hard, but he was also a groove machine.”

Young can be heard burning it up all across Kentucky, which is Black Stone Cherry’s fifth full-length. Home runs include “Soul Machine,” which features some tasty horn lines; the killer power ballad “Long Ride”; a fierce remake of the Edwin Starr hit “War”; the rocker “Cheaper to Drink Alone,” which was toned down from its original version to encourage crossover country appeal; and “The Rambler,” a largely acoustic track that closes the record.

“This album is unique,” Young says, “as we got to do it in our home studio. So we were able to develop new sounds, tones, and arrangements. Plus this was the first time we collaborated in the songwriting—not to mention the comfort of being with friends and family. In fact, I gave my daughter her first set of drumsticks [during the recording], which were handed down to me by my uncle. To see the look on her face was everything.”