blackberry-smoke

BLACKBERRY SMOKE – Like An Arrow

482437Blackberry Smoke are my favorite southern rock band. To be honest, that doesn’t speak for much because I’m not really a big fan of southern rock. Lynyrd Skynyrd? Nope. Molly Hatchet? Nah. Blackfoot? Hell yeah! But to me Blackfoot weren’t really a southern rock band, to these ears, they were more a ballsy hard rock band with a big chunk of southern influences. But Blackberry Smoke are a southern rock band straight up. That’s why it took me a while to get my thumb out of my ass to check them out, but when I did – much because a friend of mine more or less forced me to – I was hooked right away. I can’t put my finger on why but that album – A Little Piece Of Dixie (2009) – really moved me and it got under my skin somehow. I loved that album intensively and when they released The Whippoorwill three years later, I just didn’t stand a chance – I was hooked for real. That album is to this day my favorite Blackberry Smoke record even though its predecessor and their latest effort Holding All The Roses (2015) aren’t that far behind. The only Blackberry Smoke record I find a bit on the uneven side – although not even close to bad – is their debut Bad Luck Ain’t No Crime (2004). And I’m not the only one who has discovered Georgia, Atlanta’s finest in recent years because Blackberry Smoke’s popularity has been rising with every album – their last album being their biggest success so far and I wouldn’t be surprised one bit if they will become a huge major act in the very near future. That is, of course, if they can manage to keep up the high quality on their future records, starting with this one. Expectations from their audience and fans are without a doubt very high – and rightfully so. No one will be content with a new album that isn’t at least just as good as its predecessor, so the band really has to be on their toes while writing every new record.

Opener “Waiting For The Thunder” is the song that tells us not to worry and that they won’t give in on the quality. It’s a fat, chunky, raunchy and raw southern hard rocker with a hook to die for. Lyrically, it’s an angry, middle-finger in the face to all the politicians in the States that are bullshitting all over the people right now. Angry lyrics to an angry song – this is nothing but brilliant. The single “Let It Burn” is a sweaty, swinging, danceable country rocker with a chorus catchier than super-glue that will make you wanna get up and shake everything you’ve got to shake. This must be a hit, dammit – because it’s marvellous. The ballad “The Good Life” comes with the kind of country vibe that The Rolling Stones used to provide us with in the mid 70’s, the kind that should come with a box of tissues to dry your wet eyes after listening – very emotional and real. “What Comes Naturally” is a slow blues-based country rock twanger with a bad-ass swing. Tied together with the meaty and the somewhat dirty in a not so dirty way lyrics gives me the vibes of a small, smoky southern rock/country club – great! The slower pace continues with mellower, smoke-smelling blues tune “Running Through Time”. It has this nice and slow groove on an almost jazzy ground. I kind of like it, but there’s something in the tune that just doesn’t get to me – an ok, song but it doesn’t quite cut it all the way through. The title track is a melodic southern rocker with some hard and heavy riffing and a very catchy main melody and chorus. There’s also some really cool dual guitar soloing which brings a bit of guitar heroism to the track – brilliant stuff.

“Ought To Know” is another tune that visits early to mid 70’s Rolling Stones territory. The groove is intense and the tune rocks hard in a bluesy way but with the always present southern rocking country vibe – very fat and chunky indeed. “Sunrise In Texas” is a solid blues rock ballad that reminds me some of early Black Crowes – very soulful, serene and cathartic. “Ain’t Gonna Wait” is another slow piece country / rock / pop ballad, this one based on acoustic guitars. It has some really good melodies, but it kind of passes by unnoticed – good while you’re listening but it doesn’t stick around for too long. “Workin’ For A Workin’ Man” brings some bad-ass hard rock groove and a kicking attitude. It’s more of a hard rocker with a country influence than the other way around – and boy, do we dig it when the Smoke is rockin’ it out! Yeah! “Believe Me You” is a funky 70’s-smelling rocker with guitar licks and melody lines that reminds me of The Rolling Stones “Hot Stuff” (Black And Blue, 1976) – if you can’t feel the swing and groove on this one you’re probably paralyzed – you can almost smell the perspiration from the song. The closing track “Free On The Wing”, featuring Gregg Allman of The Allman Brothers who lent his voice for this one, is a mellow and smooth harmony laden feel-good, slow-paced blues / pop song on a base of electric piano and a cozy groove with a slide guitar for good measure. A good song without a doubt, but not as strong as many other songs on this record.

Once again, Blackberry Smoke has provided us with another portion of killer songs and it sure feels like it’s time for the band to take another step up on the ladder to mega stardom. Musically, this album is more diverse than the rest of their records and I really dig it when a band have the guts to move outside their comfort zone – in this case it’s the southern rock box they have been thinking outside of. It’s also a bit more raw than their other albums and it’s a thing that sure fits this band well. But what is most impressing with this lot is their ability to literally crap out killer songs time after another. When even a non-southern rock fan like myself becomes a big fan of a southern rock band, they must be doing something right. Great Britain has already embraced them and over there, Blackberry Smoke is a given headliner, but when will the rest of the world wake up and smell the rock? The question has been asked many times – which band will step up as the next big festival headliner and arena rock band when all the Iron Maidens, Kiss, Aerosmiths and Black Sabbaths of this world bids us their last goodbye? From my point of view, Blackberry Smoke are one heavy contender.

8/10

Other Blackberry Smoke reviews:

Holding All The Roses
The Whipoorwill

Tracklist:

1. Waiting For The Thunder
2. Let It Burn
3. The Good Life
4. What Comes Naturally
5. Running Through Time
6. Like An Arrow
7. Ought To Know
8. Sunrise In Texas
9. Ain’t Gonna Wait
10. Workin’ For A Workin’ Man
11. Believe You Me
12. Free On The Wing