Music News & Reviews

HeadHunters, Black Stone Cherry head to Kentucky State Fair

Black Stone Cherry are John Fred Young, Ben Wells, Chris Robertson and Jon Lawhon.
Black Stone Cherry are John Fred Young, Ben Wells, Chris Robertson and Jon Lawhon.

The Kentucky HeadHunters/Black Stone Cherry

8 p.m. Aug. 20 at Cardinal Stadium for the Kentucky State Fair. Free with fair admission. 502-367-5002.

Our Metcalfe County pals, the Kentucky HeadHunters and Black Stone Cherry, found themselves a long way from home this summer.

In June, the two homegrown bands headed overseas to play the Sweden Rock Festival in Solvesborg alongside heavy rock torchbearers Slayer, Shinedown, Megadeth and Halestorm, and a pack of veteran acts that included Foreigner, Twisted Sister and the Adam Lambert-fronted incarnation of Queen.

Then in late July, after a stop by the HeadHunters at the final night of the more country-directed Craven County Jamboree with Eric Church and Jerrod Niemann in Canada, both bands hit the United Kingdom to play the Ramblin’ Man Fair in Kent for a bill that included Whitesnake and Thin Lizzy.

It was quite a journey for two bands that have long possessed strong family ties. Black Stone Cherry drummer John Fred Young is the son of HeadHunters guitarist Richard Young and nephew to the latter band’s drummer, Fred Young. But the connections don’t stop there. John Fred Young and guitarist-vocalist Chris Robertson, friends and music mates since their teens, teamed with bassist John Lawhon and guitarist Ben Wells in 2001 and began using the HeadHunters’ famed practice house to formulate ideas for what would become Black Stone Cherry’s first regional shows and a self-titled debut album that was released in 2006.

The HeadHunters, rounded out by guitarist Greg Martin and bassist/vocalist Doug Phelps, had used the house since the band (minus Phelps) began playing as Itchy Brother in the late ’60s. Since then, the two troupes have followed different stylistic paths but remain linked by a lasting family bond.

The HeadHunters achieved rapid mainstream popularity soon after the band released its 1989 debut album, “Pickin’ On Nashville,” a record that defined a rocking honky-tonk sound with its first two songs — a roadhouse-friendly revision of Bill Monroe’s “Walk Softly on This Heart of Mine” and what remains the band’s most recognizable hit, the rural party anthem “Dumas Walker.” The HeadHunters’ newest album, “Meet Me in Bluesland,” is a roots-directed session with the late rock ’n’ roll pianist Johnnie Johnson, cut in 2003 but shelved until its release last year.

Black Stone Cherry has steered clear of country accents to fashion the rock radio treats “White Trash Millionaire,” “Lonely Train” and “In My Blood.” After four studio albums for the Roadrunner label, the band switched to the Mascot Label Group, returned to Glasgow (where its debut record was cut) and made the 2016 album “Kentucky.” Among the highlights is a brass/metal-savvy remake of Edwin Starr’s 1970 Motown classic “War.”

Having shared numerous shows and tours together through the years, the HeadHunters and Black Stone Cherry bring it all back to the Bluegrass this weekend with a double-bill concert at the Kentucky State Fair. So call all the friends and neighbors. The boys will be back in town on Saturday night.

Fair footnote

More regionally rooted, family made music will be on display Sunday at the Kentucky State Fair.

Opening for the Oak Ridge Boys on Sunday will be the Martin Family Circus. The ensemble features guitarist and Winchester native Paul Martin, who clocked considerable road time in Marty Stuart’s Fabulous Superlatives band and in the early-’90s incarnation of Exile (the lineup that recorded the albums “Still Standing” and “Justice”). The Martin Family Circus also features wife Jamie Allen Martin (daughter of longtime Oak Ridge Boy member Duane Allen) and children Jamie, Kelli, Texas and Tallant Martin. The group will release its debut album, “Past. Present. Future,” on Aug. 31.

As with the Headhunters/Black Stone Cherry performance Saturday, the Sunday concert (also at Cardinal Stadium) requires fair admission ($10 adults, free for children five and younger) and parking ($8). Showtime is 8 p.m.