‘Find a Light’ is Blackberry Smoke’s sixth studio album, due out on 6th April . The band will be taking it on the road to promote it in the States for the summer, before hitting Europe and the UK towards the end of the year. If you can’t wait till autumn to see them over here, they are paying a flying visit to Ramblin’ Man festival in July.
Since forming in 2001, and after a slow start, the band have moved into top gear, releasing three albums in the last four years, no mean feat considering the band spend up to 250 days a year touring!
Call them rock, country, southern outlaw or bluegrass, I don’t think Blackberry Smoke will complain or argue, because actually they’re a bit of all of those styles rolled into one. And as long as you listen, or come to their shows, the guys will keep doing what they do best.
Quite a few recent releases from other bands this year have seen albums consisting of eight or ten tracks, with a few bonus tracks thrown in if you’re lucky. Blackberry Smoke are giving us full value for money with thirteen new songs, mainly written by frontman Charlie Starr, with a few special guests chipping in.
Kicking the album off with ‘Flesh and Bone’, the intro uses a fuzzy guitar reminiscent of The Black Keys, which means we can also add a touch of blues to the list of genres, and why not, as long as it sounds as good as this. But before we can put them into one niche, ‘Run Away From it All’ takes us straight back to Nashville, with a toe tapping, line dancing southern/country classic. And just to prove how diverse they are, they slide into ‘The Crooked Kind’ with a pounding drum beat, and strong rhythm guitar, to give us a rocking tune to shake the hay out our hair, and blow away a few cobwebs.
Moving along again with another change of pace, and a slow easy southern ballad, ‘Medicate My Mind’, lets us relax, and enjoy the uplifting vocals of Charlie Starr as he takes us to a higher plane. This theme is continued into ‘I’ve Got This Song’, which after a gentle guitar intro, combines some fiddle work to further enhance the country feel to the album, and to complete the hat trick of tunes is ‘Best Seat in the House’, with a powerful chorus gloriously promoting the American dream.
Blackberry Smoke are leading the charge in the southern rock revolution, along with other bands such as the Brothers Osbourne, Whiskey Myers and The Cadillac Three, they are blurring the boundaries between rock and country, but to bring in Robert Randolph to co-write on ‘I’ll Keep Ramblin’ is throwing another genre into the mix. Famous for his pedal steel guitar, Robert has his roots in and around gospel, which is brilliantly sandwiched in the middle between some quick fire drums and southern guitar picking.
Switching back to simple ballads again for the next couple of tracks, ‘Seems so Far’, and ‘Lord Strike me Down’ pave the way for the next collaboration, this time with award winning vocalist and violin player Amanda Shires. Her voice is subtle and slightly subdued, but compliments Starr perfectly, and leaves a hollow space of anticipation when she’s not duetting.
Fans of rock and roll can relax, you have not been forgotten, ‘Nobody Gives a Damn’ reminds us that Blackberry Smoke can play three chords just as well as the likes of Status Quo. If these guys start head banging to this one, they’ll have the eyes out the front row of the crowd.
Penultimate track ‘Till the Wheels Fall Off’ stays with the rock, playing strong, loud and proud. A story of pushing the boundaries, just like this album has been doing all the way through, and not giving up your principles no matter what others think. And as if they haven’t mixed it up enough already, for the final track and collaboration, the Wood Brothers bring their American folk based influence to ‘Mother Mountain’.
‘Find The Light’ has something for everyone, whether it’s rock, southern, country, or blues, Blackberry Smoke just keep doing whatever they enjoy themselves. And if they keep on producing the albums themselves, who’s going to tell them they can’t!
Flesh and Bone
Run Away From It All
The Crooked Kind
Medicate My Mind
I’ve Got This Song
Best Seat In The House
I’ll Keep Rambling
Seems So Far
Lord Strike Me Dead
Let Me Down Easy
Nobody Gives A Damn
Till The Wheels Fall Off
Blackberry Smoke are:
Charlie Starr (lead vocals, guitar)
Richard Turner (bass, vocals)
Brit Turner (drums)
Paul Jackson (guitar, vocals)
Brandon Still (keyboards).
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