Recapturing the energy and sound of their self-titled first album—that’s what Black Stone Cherry set out to do in recording their latest release, Kentucky, reuniting with engineer David Barrick at Barrick Recording Studio in Glasgow, Ky.
“We know what our fans want from us, and we've learned a lot through the years,” rhythm guitarist Ben Wells says. “It was such a freeing experience to produce and be back in our hometown studio again.”
The Southern-rock group formed in 2001 in Edmonton, Ky., with Chris Robertson on lead vocals and lead guitar, Jon Lawhon on bass and backing vocals, John Fred Young on drums and backing vocals, and Wells on rhythm guitar and backing vocals. Kentucky is the band’s fifth studio album.
In laying down the tracks, Barrick began by focusing on Young’s drums as the foundation. “The guys played together with scratch vocals on the songs, and we captured all the parts live with the intention to overdub everything else,” Barrick says. “They had good line of sight while tracking. This worked out great for in-the-studio arrangement changes.”
They captured the country-tinged ballad “The Rambler” with Robertson’s vocal and Wells’ acoustic guitar recorded together. “Chris had his guitar amp in the vocal booth with him,” Barrick says. “Ben’s amp was in an iso booth, and he was in the main room with the drums. Jon went through an Ampeg DI and was in the large drum room as well for the live tracking.”
Drums were miked with a combination of Shure, Audiz, Heil, AKG mics, with a Telefunken AR-70 stereo mic to capture the kit and the room, and three Audio-Technica 4033 mics left, right, and center for overheads. On bass, he used Ampeg Classic DI XLR output and Sennheiser 421 on the Ampeg 8x10 cab; and on guitars, a Shure SM57 and Cascade ribbon Fat Head II.
The vocal chain was a Shure SM7B—the same mic used on the first BSC album—through a Brent Averill Neve 3405, Tube-Tech PE 1C, Tube-Tech CL 1B, and Empirical Labs EL-8. A Telefunken AK-47 was used on backing vocals. Everything was cut to Pro Tools HD4.
The recording sessions were a laid-back affair, with Barrick and the band riffing off each other. “We just got in there and made music,” Wells says. “We didn't focus on radio, press; we just wanted to make a badass BSC album that we know our fans will like and we know will go down a storm live.”
Adds Barrick, “The hardest thing we faced making the record was deciding on a mocha or caramel frappe from the little hippy Christian coffee shop across the street from the studio,” he laughs. “I got to make the record with my friends that we wanted to make. We tend to keep things really lighthearted and fun, and you can really hear it in the music. I grew up in radio—my parents started an AM station in 1962, and an FM one in 1972. My dad always said, ‘Smile when you are on the mic, because listeners can hear it.’ He also said that it was better to stand up for the stuff that required energy, and I use those same philosophies for the studio.”