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ED November 2016

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64 November 2016 Club Bulletin www.EDpublications.com I n the 1970s and 1980s, "arena acts" dominated the rock and roll landscape. Being a successful rock musician—a "rock star"—meant playing to crowds of 10,000-plus every night in basketball or hockey arenas across the U.S. Bands like Led Zeppelin, Aerosmith, KISS, Black Sabbath and Van Halen gave way to acts like Iron Maiden, Metallica, Motley Crue and Bon Jovi. But then the '90s came, and with it the "anti-rock-star" grunge acts like Nirvana, Pearl Jam and Soundgarden … and Napster's illegal music downloading. Before we knew it, arena rock was dead. But what about the "rock star"? Is he gone, too? While some of the aforementioned acts from the '70s and '80s are still relevant today and still touring the arenas, today's hard rock bands define success by a different set of criteria. "I don't measure success by album sales, I measure it by the people who come to our shows and tell us what our songs mean to them," says Chris Robertson, singer/guitarist for the band Black Stone Cherry. "And I measure it with being able to come home and know that my bills are paid. It's not about having a glamorous lifestyle." Despite Robertson's comments about album sales, if there are any "millennial" bands that could be considered "rock stars" in their own right, count Black Stone Cherry among them. Formed in Lexington, Kentucky in 2001 (hence, the name of the band's newest CD, Kentucky), the quartet has opened for several "arena" acts, such as Def Leppard, Lynyrd Skynyrd and Nickelback, as well as other highly successful bands like Rival Sons and Sammy Hagar's Chickenfoot. They've also had several hit singles and albums that have landed in the top 30 of the U.S. Billboard 200 chart. While that may not sound quite like the definition of a "rock star," take a look at what they're doing across the pond. "Truth is, 99% of the venues we play in the U.S. are about 1,000 capacity, and that's cool man, I can't complain," says Robertson. "I still get to plug my guitar in and sing, and play with three of my best friends on the planet. It pays the bills and beats punching the clock in a factory. But I look outside the U.S., to the U.K., and we'll play sold-out shows to over 2,500 people. I look at that as doing pretty damn well." In fact, Black Stone Cherry's last three albums have gone number-one on the U.K. rock charts, and the band has routinely appeared on the cover of high-profile U.K./European magazines like Classic Rock Magazine and Kerrang. Robertson still isn't exactly sure why the band has resonated so loudly with British fans, but he certainly isn't complaining. "That's the million-dollar question," Robertson says when asked about their popularity overseas. "I've asked people, 'What do you like about us?' They say, 'Your music is the big thing, but also that you're just four dudes that don't put yourself above anybody.' At the end of November, we're doing an 'evening with' tour of the U.K. where we'll play an hour acoustic, then 90 minutes of electric with break in the middle. These are 3,000-seat arenas, and they're almost sold out already. It's unreal over there." The band (which also consists of Ben Wells, rhythm guitar; Jon Lawhon, bass; and John Fred, drums) is continuing to tour in support of its fifth studio album Kentucky, a self- produced album that incorporates new sonic elements while still adhering to Black Stone Cherry's trademark southern- tinged hard rock sound. No track showcases the band's diversity more than "Soul Machine," a catchy rocker with sexually-tinged lyrics that sees the band using a horn section and background signers for the first time in their career. "Soul Machine" is one of the newest tracks featured on StripJointsMusic.com and is available to download for adult nightclub DJs. "('Soul Machine') is a song we've always wanted to do; we wanted to incorporate horns, we wanted to use the 'soul sisters' as they're known here, but the record label told us no, that stuff doesn't sell," says Robertson. "When we went in to do the new record, our new label (Mascot Records) said, 'Make the record you want to make, we'll make sure to put it in people's hands.' So we did exactly what we wanted to do. The horns and the singers bring that song to life. 'Soul Machine' is a perfect combination of early-'90s-style aggression slammed into a Wilson Pickett song. It's a fun song, and anyone who reads the lyrics will see it's obvious what it's about." For more information, visit StripJointsMusic.com. Is the "rock star" dead? Frontman and guitarist Chris Robertson of Black Stone Cherry discusses the band's latest album Kentucky, the track "Soul Machine" (available on StripJointsMusic.com) and what it means to be a successful rock-and-roller in 2016. L-R: Fred, Wells, Lawhorn & Robertson J BOOTH D by Dave Manack I look outside the U.S., to the U.K., and we'll play sold-out shows to over 2,500 people. I look at that as doing pretty damn well." - Robertson

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