|Recording information: Echo Mountain Studio, Asheville, NC (07/21/2011-08/04/2011); The Hangar, Fayetteville, GA (07/21/2011-08/04/2011); The Small Room, Atlanta, GA (07/21/2011-08/04/2011); The Workshop, Nashville, TN (07/21/2011-08/04/2011).
|Atlanta, Georgia's Blackberry Smoke does upward of 250 shows a year, relentlessly crossing and re-crossing the various club, bar, and festival circuits, and the group's classic Southern rock sound, which recalls bands like the Black Crowes and Lynyrd Skynyrd, has been honed to a sharp edge by the constant playing. This is a solid band with a good rhythm section in bassist Richard Turner and drummer Brit Turner, a stand-out keyboardist in Brandon Still, and plenty of electric guitar work from Paul Jackson and lead singer Charlie Starr. Starr's voice is really what makes Blackberry Smoke more than a Southern rock nostalgia act, though. He's a country singer with a rock attitude and heart, and when the song's good, and the band's on board, this is a top-tier group who merge country and rock so seamlessly that it's both at once. There are several very good songs on The Whippoorwill, the band's debut for Zac Brown's Southern Ground label, including the chugging "Six Ways to Sunday," which opens the set, the tell-it-straight-like-it-is small town anti-anthem "One Horse Town" (which sounds like Steve Earle in his heyday), and the cranky, defiant, and determined "Leave a Scar," any of which deserve to be in regular rotation on contemporary country stations, but probably won't be because they sound more like Muscle Shoals productions than they do Nashville. Think Steve Earle fronting Lynyrd Skynyrd. Great stuff, ragged and real, and yes, there are a lot of clich? stances and phrases woven into these songs, but Starr's voice and this band's loose yet crisp playing style pulls it all off more often than not. ~ Steve Leggett