Review: Sons of Liberty/Preacher Stone – Hard Rock Cafe, Glasgow

Sons of Liberty/Preacher Stone – Hard Rock Cafe, Glasgow Friday March 24th

For seasoned fans of southern rock in the UK, current times are like Christmas, New Year, the last day of school, and their team scoring an injury-time winner to win the league but also relegate their local rivals at the same time, all rolled into one big ball of guitar-soaked heaven. Robert Jon & The Wreck have just completed a massively successful (and lengthy) tour of these shores, Blackberry Smoke are about to launch a six-date tour of the UK & Ireland, and Bristolian purveyors of groove Sons of Liberty have teamed up with North Carolina’s finest, Preacher Stone, for a run of nine shows in ten days. Those hoping for some intricate progressive time signatures and music that veers to the left need not apply, this is all about having a good time while soaking in hours of non-fussy, guitar-driven southern rock and roll with heart by the bucketload, or better still; by the mason jar-load.

For many UK fans, Preacher Stone first came to attention through the use of their song ‘Not Today’ in the hit FX TV show Sons of Anarchy. As well as giving viewers a reason to google why actor Tommy Flanagan was called “Chibs” in the show, Sons of Anarchy had a kick-ass soundtrack (including The White Buffalo) that featured many unknown artists, of which Preacher Son was just one. Even the most ardent of fans of the six-piece knew the chance of catching the band in the UK was slim, but praise the lord of twin guitars, for standing right in front of us tonight in a room darker than Mordor itself are Preacher Stone. And not only that, they have brought CDs with them so no more insane shipping costs!

Playing their own laid-back brand of southern rock and roll, Preacher Stone makes it look easy. Effortless. And that’s crucial. With a genre that has never gone out of fashion in the UK and Europe, southern rock needs to be authentic and these guys are as authentic as they come. From the minute that lead guitarist and founding member Marty Hill picks up his guitar slide, and takes run after run up and down the neck of his gorgeous Fender Telecaster, it is on. Wearing a Lynyrd Skynrd Collins – Rossington t-shirt in tribute to fallen brothers, Hill makes his guitar sing with one stunning guitar lick after the other, ‘Lazarus’ is all about his slide tones and those acquainting themselves with the band for the first can be seen getting into it by the universal language of bobbing thy head in time. With fellow lead guitarist Ben Robinson (opting for a Gibson to play off Hill’s Fender) alongside Hill, the pair settle into a groove that shows a great understanding between them; especially on ‘Can’t Keep a Good Man Down’ when Hill opens with a soft intro which leads to some killer guitar harmonies before Robinson takes the solo towards the end. Magic stuff.

The Skynyrd-themed t-shirt makes perfect sense because Preacher Stone vocalist Ronnie Riddle has the same un-schooled vocal style that Skynyrd legend Ronnie Van Zant made look so natural. Blue-collar, working-man vibes make Riddle your new best friend whom you might just be meeting for the first time but feel that you have known your entire life. Introduced as the “Pastor of Disaster”,  he has an easy-going personality that is easy to warm to (as do all the performers tonight from both bands) and when he asks “…who had their ass whooped as a kid?” he is met with howls of recognition from the crowd, he dedicates ‘Old Fashioned Ass Whoopin’ Sum Bitch’ to the “…ass whooping sob’s”. Bassist Jim Bolt, III (who also helps out with some sweet backing vocals) forms a killer rhythm section with drummer Josh Wyatt (known on his YouTube channel as “Yoshi”, but mostly known simply as Wyatt), and if one was to describe Wyatt’s playing as – can you imagine an octopus playing drums? – then it still wouldn’t do his playing any justice. Even his two-minute drum solo is so entertaining that no one turns and heads to the bar; a solo that begins in the style of celebrated jazz drummer Billy Cobham and ends in John Bonham territory. Hard to remember when a drum solo was a set highlight like this was tonight. Other highlights come in the shape of ‘Not Today’ (naturally) and new ones like ‘The Damage is Done’ and the Aerosmith-strut of ‘My My My’, both of which will appear on the forthcoming new album ‘Fifth’.

During ‘My My My’, Marty Hill goes for a walkabout through the crowd, and his Fender Tele becomes more noticeable. Especially the black and white picture on the bottom of the guitar which in the darkness looks like a young child with their hands up in prayer, once the set ends and Preacher Stone have soaked up the loud roars of approval they begin to break down their equipment and the chance is there to ask Hill about the picture; but it’s not a young child with their hands up in prayer…” Oh, that’s me as a child when my Dad handed me a grenade to hold…”…and as The Cadillac Three famously once said…“It’s all about the South”. Miss these guys at your peril.

Whilst still drinking from the same well as Preacher Stone, Sons of Liberty offer up a harder, heavier brand of southern rock, one where the playing kicks in doors and rattles skulls. With lead guitarist Fred Hale as impressive as ever, and the visuals from the band as strong as ever – the sight of three guitarists lined up front stage all swaying in perfect synchronisation will never get old – Sons of Liberty are going from strength to strength. And like their tour mates on this trek dubbed the ‘Old Country Ramble’, the vastly experienced Sons do make it look effortless.

New-ish vocalist Rob Walker might look like he should be fronting Amon Amarth but he is perfectly at home belting out Sons’ nuggets such as the crunching ‘Rich Man, Poor Man, Beggar Man, Thief’ which comes with a totally badass swing to it. Walker acts as conductor-in-chief for the evening, and before Sons of Liberty hit the stage, Rob could be seen acting as main cheerleader for Preacher Stone during their entire set, clearly enjoying his evening. Onstage, this continues as he coaxes some audience participation out of a crowd in a venue where it can be a bit lethargic thanks to tables and chairs being placed around the venue. After a belting version of ‘Up Shit Creek’ ends, he stands with arms raised and asks in true Gladiator-style: “ARE YOU NOT ENTERTAINED”. Quite a sight and there can’t have been anyone in the crowd who wasn’t entertained. Everything though flows through the man at the back; Steve Byrne on drums (the Don Powell-esque Steve Byrne), and his playing is a joy to watch, especially on the aforementioned cowbell-infused ‘Up Shit Creek’ and the fun-filled ‘Beef Jerky Boogie’ which lands later on in the set. Partnered with the rocksteady Mark Thomas on bass, the duo forms a solid foundation that allows Fred Hale to strut his stuff (his wah-wah infused solo on ‘Damaged Reputation’ particularly impresses) while fellow six-stringer Moose aids and abets.

The ear-pleasing setlist calls at both albums released so far; 2020’s ‘Animism’, and the 2021 sophomore album ‘Aces & Eights’; ‘Texas Hill Country’ is always a highlight thanks to the big-ass bass rumble from Mark Thomas; ‘Don’t Hide Behind Your Weakness’ is packed with easy-going rolling guitar licks from Fred Hale while ‘I Come in Peace’ takes things down a notch or two with a slower pace; ‘Free Man’ brings a bit of an early Quo touch here and there, and the infectious ‘Damned If You Do’ has a ‘DC feel at its core, and Marty Hill from Preacher Stone is offering his vocal support from the front of the crowd. Great camaraderie on this tour. ‘Brotherhood’ is perhaps the highlight of the set; thanks in part to the ‘It’s a Long Way to the Top (If You Wanna Rock ‘N’ Roll)’-like intro and the extended guitar solo from Fred Hale that can only be described as scorchio. Ending with a knockout one-two of ‘Fire & Gasoline’ and ‘Ruby Starr’, Sons of Liberty bring one hell of a memorable night to a stunning conclusion.

Grab a ticket for one of the remaining shows listed below and prepare to not only have a great time but to be blown away in fine southern style.

26/03 Trillians – Newcastle

28/03 The Musician – Leicester

29/03 Nightrain – Bradford

30/03 The Victoria – Swindon

31/03 Leo’s Red Lion – Gravesend

Tickets, here.

Review – Dave

All live images – Dave Jamieson



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