Georgia’s Blackberry Smoke, one of the crucial bands in the resurgence of Southern Rock, have been building on traditions since their formation in 2000 to keep the southern torch burning. A genre considered more old fashioned than others has had a major turnaround in recent years with help from major artists such as Black Stone Cherry, Shinedown, Kid Rock and many more incorporating the style into their music.
Fast forward to 2016, a significant year for southern rock sees releases from Cadillac Three, Whiskey Myers, Drive By Truckers and at the forefront Blackberry Smoke with their 5th studio release, ‘Like An Arrow’.
Despite only just being released, listeners have been taunted with teaser tracks since July, specifically with the track ‘Waiting For The Thunder’, which coincidentally opens the proceedings. A full throttle, ballsy guitar driven, politically lyrical track ensues, “Maybe them with the power and the glory got more then they deserve. Why do we stand by and do nothing while they piss it all away. And we hope we wake up in the mornin’ to the light of a brand new day” particularly topical with the current climate in the world of politics and the state of the music industry.
In typical fashion Blackberry Smoke never like to stick to one sound, having their fingers in all the pies, to ensure the listener gets served a starter, main and dessert. ‘Let It Burn’ is next in line, poised with an unmistakeable groove throughout, it’s an all hands on deck approach with tambourines, keyboards, guitars and dual vocals all taking a front seat to construct a full bodied, feel good southern rock’n’roll song.
As stated previously, never one to allow to be pigeonholed, there are moments on the album that take a far mellower, exemplary, sentimental approach, ‘The Good Life’ & ‘Sunrise In Texas’ are two instances of this. In addition to the aforementioned qualities, the tracks ease the listener in by introducing instruments individually, which actually works in their favour as it build up momentum progressing through the track with various tempo changes. Without doubt one of the standout tracks on the album, is ‘Sunrise In Texas’ displaying all the essential criteria a fan would expect in a Blackberry Smoke song, a perfect relationship between music and vocals coupled with a powerful lyrical message.
The band spreads their proverbial wings with the track ’Believe You Me’. A change in the dynamics and possessing funk overtones, reminiscent of authentic 1970’s funk musicians, infused with a healthy measure of southern rock. Musically and lyrically it’s executed in more of a jam-style rather than a traditional structured song, a prime example where they embrace and stage their influences, offering of something completely different for the listener.
For a southern rock band, what better way for an album closer than one with a little help from legendary, southern rock icon and Smoke fan Gregg Allman. It’d be criminal, due to extensive previous comparisons, to assume ‘Free On The Wing’ is in anyway a recreation of Skynyrds ‘Freebird’. ‘Free On The Wing’ is a smooth, harmony-indulgent affair with all the essential ingredients such as slide guitar, keyboards and Greggs gutsy vocals to add a new level to the song and compliment Charlie Starrs softer vocals.
It was inevitably going to be somewhat of a daunting task following up 2015’s hugely successful release ‘Holding All The Roses’, an album packed to the rafters of hit worthy tracks. It would have been too risky to try and replicate the previously successful formula, perhaps reasoning for why ‘Like An Arrow’ is more reflective of their personal influences, stylistically covering folk, funk, country/southern rock and even edging on hard rock.
Having recently announced a full UK tour for spring 2017 it’ll give fans plenty of time to get psyched up and familiarise themselves with the new material in preparation for a mass sing-a-long.
2017 Tour Dates:
27th – 02 Academy, Oxford
28th – The Roundhouse, London
29th – UEA, Norwich
31st – Academy, Manchester
1st – Olympia Theatre, Dublin
3rd – Barrowland, Glasgow
4th – 02 Academy, Newcastle
6th – 02 Academy, Bristol
7th – 02 Academy, Birmingham
8th – Pyramid Centre, Portsmouth