Southern Rock maestros Blackberry Smoke are back with their seventh album You Hear Georgia (3 Legged Records/Thirty Tiger). The Georgian septet are deep in their groove by now and as the title suggests this new record pays homage to their home state, with Dave Cobb (Rival Sons, Europe) on production duties.
As last year wound down, 2020 was looking bright for music, with tours galore and a litany of reunions. Nashville’s rock ‘n rollers Tyler Bryant and the Shakedown were looking forward to building on their busy 2019, which included tours and festivals across the US and Europe, most notably with Stone Temple Pilots, Rival Sons, Clutch, Sevendust, Blackstone Cherry, and Airbourne, among others, and the release of their critically-acclaimed album, Truth and Lies. But as 2020’s landscape changed, big plans did too. Some artists went on hiatus, while others decided to take the time to reflect and write. In this case, guitarist/vocalist Tyler Bryant, drummer Caleb Crosby, and guitarist Graham Whitford did not slow down, took on the latter approach, and hunkered down in Bryant’s home studio to craft some of their best work with the help of co-producer/engineer Roger Alan Nichols. Aptly titled Pressure (out October 16th on Snakefarm/Spinefarm Records), the album takes listeners on a journey through the emotional and tumultuous year. Coincidentally, many of the songs began to take shape before Nashville faced a destructive tornado, COVID, and racial justice rallies. However, the release could not have been timed better, as it offers up 13 tracks to headbang and air guitar away the trials and tribulations of the last seven months and beyond. With a multitude of moods and tempos, and a collage of rock, blues, roots, and country stylings, Pressure follows the roller coaster that is 2020 life. Continue reading
I have a musical comfort zone. And it’s all the way over there with the Jackson Flying V’s and double-bass drums. It may even include some spandex (not on me, though…) Yet here I am, sitting here, rocking on the porch (sofa), nodding along to the Southern vibes of Atlanta, Georgia’s Blackberry Smoke and their fourth album Holding All The Roses (Earache). And I’m more than fine with that.
Following the critical and commercial success of The Whippoorwill (Earache/Southern Ground) would have daunting to many bands, but not the Smoke, who shacked up with mega-producer Brendan O’Brien (Pearl Jam, AC/DC, Bruce Springsteen). Any fears that such a hit-maker would sterilize their sound are quickly dispersed by the laidback singalong to ‘Let Me Help You Find The Door’ and it’s rock n’ roll shamble. The title track shuffles in next, picking up the beat, with some clean guitar fingerpicking and a more uptempo come-and-join-us chorus. Whereas the temptation could have been to seek the big bucks and accidentally fall into the trap of producing sanitized radio rock, instead Blackberry Smoke have infused their music with even more of a traditional Southern flavour, and, boy, does it suit.
Blackberry Smoke are no gimmick band, just a class one with their hearts in yesteryear and a love of venerable records, releasing an album full of simple pleasures; of pure, excellent songs. There are many highlights, the pick of which are the two melancholy numbers, the deeper, bluesier ‘Woman In The Moon’, where Charlie Starr’s lazy delivery comes into its own, and ‘No Way Back To Eden’ (a track I’d have been tempted to close the album on), both of which prove the quintet have that added depth all the best have. In amongst the swathes of Creedence Clearwater Revival (and several other subtle references I’m too unschooled to know) ‘Too High’ is wistful country and ‘Rock and Roll Again’ is the sound of the Deep South ripping on Status Quo and Lynyrd Skynyrd’s ‘Call Me The Breeze’, while ‘Payback’s A Bitch’ has a work-shy hook that will infect you like sidewinder venom, as Holding All The Roses unfurls it’s kick-ass blues rock beauty with a smile.
I’ll level. If Blackberry Smoke weren’t on Earache, the chances are high I wouldn’t have been interested in checking them out. Chances are also as good as getting a 7+ on a 15 hand in pontoon we wouldn’t be included them in the hallowed digi-pages of the good ship Ghost Cult without the same, or similar, connection. And we’d have missed out on a warm, chilled out doozy, so hats off to Dig and all concerned for branching out and expanding their traditional net. I’m delighted they did. I’m not going to go off and dive into a whole other musical genre, but I’m glad the Smoke have entered my life and my music collection. They won’t be for everyone who frequents a metal site, but they should be for people who value unassuming good rock songs.
If there is justice out there, the winds will spread the Blackberry pollen far and wide.