Live Review: Sons of Liberty and Preacher Stone at Nightrain, Bradford on 29-03-23

Written by and photos by: NICK ASHTON

Dust off your Stetson, saddle up your horse and catch these two terrific bands live on a stage near you!

The Preacher Stone / Sons of Liberty co-headline tour rolled into Bradford’s Nightrain on a dank Wednesday evening, promising to raise our spirits with the finest Southern-fried rock n roll. And boy, did they deliver! Dubbed the Old Country Ramble, there was nothing pedestrian about either band’s performance tonight. First up were North Carolina’s Preacher Stone, a band new to me but one that I will be revisiting at the earliest opportunity.  Launching into their set with Mother to Bed and Lazarus it becomes apparent very quickly that these boys are not here to take any prisoners. Their live sound is heavier than that on record, perhaps due to the absence of keyboards. The twin guitar attack of Marty Hill and Ben Robinson ensure that the songs are delivered with plenty of energy and that patented Southern rock blend of slide guitar and harmony. They quickly have the audience in the palm of their hand, winning over new converts to their cause. 

Moving on through the set, we reach an early highlight in the form of Old Fashioned Ass Whoopin’ Sum Bitch. Singer Ronnie Riddle tells me after the show that this song has been in their set from the very beginning, and that he feared a riot from the audience if they ever dropped it. The only time that they considered doing so, at an all-ages family show at a county fair, they were given permission by the mayor himself to come back and play it as an encore in order to keep the peace. Lyrically, the song tells the story of the archetypal ornery Southern hellraiser and the generations that he spawned, set against some memorable guitar work and one of the first of many big solos of the night.  

Tales of whiskey drinking and hard living follow thick and fast via That’s Just The Whisky Talkin’ and Livin’ Proof until we reach another highlight in the form of Not Today. If you are a fan of the TV series Sons of Anarchy you will recognise this song, as it was featured in two seasons of the show. As Ronnie explains, this kind of exposure is priceless for an unknown band: all of a sudden you could hear Not Today everywhere and the band were in demand. In fact, were it not for the success of this song, they would not have been kickin’ ass in Bradford on a school night. Just as the audience’s cheers die down, the band leave the stage: could their set be over already? That question is answered quickly as powerhouse drummer Josh Wyatt begins a modern-day rarity: the drum solo. Now usually this is a cue for most people to head to the bar for some refreshment; but Josh holds the audience with a display of technical expertise as he rattles around Sons’ drummer, Steve Byrne’s huge kit. Then it’s into the final straight as the band return and more asses are kicked. Ronnie delivers an old North Carolina toast “Here’s to you and here’s to me, may we never disagree. But if we do, fuck you, here’s to meto much amusement and before long The Preacher’s set is over. 


After a quick turn round, the Sons of Liberty hit the stage with a whirlwind of energy. It’s My Bad segues into Rich Man, Poor Man, Beggar Man, Thief and the first sing along of the set. Guitarists Fred Hale and Andy Moose Muse are a blur as they occupy every inch of the stage and encourage the audience to join in. New(ish) vocalist Rob Walker has settled into his role in the band and has a huge grin on his face as we venture Up Shit Creek, a destination with which many of us are all too familiar! As this tongue in cheek tale of woe ends with a sinking boat, the audience’s cheers are met by smiles all round on stage. After a quick hello and welcome from Rob, we move on to Damaged Reputation which has a seriously infectious groove. It is also bone rattlingly loud thanks to Steve’s huge drum sound which threatens to pin everyone to the back of the venue. Few drummers have a double bass kit these days; but Steve is old school and makes the most of the room afforded by Nightrain’s spacious stage. In fact it is so loud on stage that Steve asks for his monitor to be turned down; which has to be a first for a drummer! 

Following a trip to Texas Hill Country things slow down for Black Blizzard which tells the tale of drought-stricken farmers in the dust bowl of the 1930s. Like many of the lyrics written by former vocalist Rob Cooksley, there is a deep understanding and empathy for the working class poor and indigenous people of North America. There are also songs that offer hope and insight, such as the next tune Don’t Hide Behind Your Weakness and the big ballad I Come In Peace. The latter’s message is that despite our differences, ordinary people are basically the same and that it is governments who provoke war and hatred. It also features an uplifting solo from Fred that propels the song to its climax.  

After some thought-provoking songs, the mood is lifted by the tale of Doc Holliday and the most famous poker hand in history, two black aces and two black eights: the Dead Man’s Hand. As we know, the story doesn’t end well for Doc; but the song sure gets the crowd going again and in the mood for Free Man’s infectious groove and driving base line pumped out by Mark Thomas. This leads us into a singalong to Damned If You Do and the distinctly vegan un-friendly Beef Jerky Boogie which raises the energy in the room even more thanks to some dual guitar work and another blistering solo from Fred. 

Now we’re coming towards the end of the set and a rousing Brotherhood from early EP …Shinola which includes an obligatory hell yeah! from the audience. The solo morphs into Fred’s most epic outing to date, the truly amazing Into The Great Unknown. Normally there’s no room in shorter sets for this lengthy piece, which is a personal favourite of mine, so it’s terrific to hear the solo featured in the current set. It is a masterclass in building mood and tension, showcasing Fred’s outstanding talent on the lead guitar. Judging by the rapturous response of the audience, I’m not the only one who enjoyed it either! Trust me, you really need to see and hear this for yourself. The set ends on a high with Fire & Gasoline and Ruby Starr, both big up-beat songs that raise the energy once more and leave everyone hungry for more. 

The “Old Country Ramble” has proven that Southern Rock is alive and well, so dust off your Stetson, saddle up your horse and catch these two terrific bands live on a stage near you. Hell Yeah! 

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