Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Blackberry Smoke 'The Whippoorwill' CD Review

Blackberry Smoke 'The Whippoorwill' CD Review

01. Six Ways to Sunday
02. Pretty Little Lie
03. Everybody Knows She's Mine
04. One Horse Town
05. Ain't Much Left of Me
06. The Whippoorwill 
07. Lucky Seven
08. Leave A Scar
09. Crimson Moon
10. Ain't Got the Blues
11. Sleeping Dogs
12. Shakin' Hands with the Holy Ghost
13. Up the Road

Charlie Starr - Vocals, Guitar, Pedal Steel, and Banjo
Richard Turner - Bass Guitar & Vocals
Paul Jackson - Guitar & Vocals
Brandon Still - Piano & Organ
Brit Turner - Drums & Percussion

Blackberry Smoke, Clay Cook, Matt Mangano and Zac Brown

Blackberry Smoke have returned with their third full length album, 'The Whippoorwill'.  A diverse album consisting of thirteen songs ranging from straight-up boogie rockers, a heartfelt "ballad", a southern fried AC/DC-esque rocker and all emotions in between.  The production is top notch and the new label, Zac Brown's Southern Ground has allowed their personalities to shine through whereas they seemed a bit handcuffed by the production and label on their last album, "Little Piece Of Dixie".  

The last album seemed overproduced and the band seemed censored for the sake of radio play.  This album is masterfully produced but isn't so glossy where the spirit of the players doesn't shine through.  Also, if you have ever been to a Blackberry Smoke live show than you know these guys have a great sense of humor!  That comes through on this album as well.  

All the elements of the band that longtime fans love are all here and if this album doesn't bring in many many more fans then there is no hope for the music industry.  After a few false starts with now defunct labels, it appears the band has finally found a home where they can create what they want without a label pushing them in one direction and the label is more than happy to deliver the music to the masses.  In the past few years, the band has shared stages with the likes of the Zac Brown Band, Jamey Johnson, Eric Church, Brantley Gilbert, Lynyrd Skynyrd, Cross Canadian Ragweed and ZZ Top.  They've also been visible in mainstream media having appeared in numerous publications and on CMT!!

Blackberry Smoke write from their heart and experience.  There isn't anything fake or contrived in the music.  Find those qualities watching American Idol or The Voice, I DARE YOU!!!  Blackberry Smoke is a band for the masses yet would never be too big-headed to go out and have a beer or shoot pool with their fans.  They've busted their asses playing all over the USA & Europe for over ten years, from small clubs to sold out arenas and everything in between.  This album is so strong and has a little something for everyone be it a lil' rock n' roll or a lil' bit country, whatever your mood, it is just great music, period!!  Well done guys, well done!!


Six Ways To Sunday (3:27) A lustful honky tonker that kicks the album off on a rockin' note.  Charlie sings of a sinful seductress that he fancies while Brandon lays down some major ivory on this cut.  His playing here channels some of the greats, Billy Powell, Gregg Allman, Mike Finnegan, among others.  This galloping rocker should be in the live set for years to come!

Pretty Little Lie (3:34) A mid-tempo tune that every man can relate to.  To me, it seems to be about a woman you know is doing you wrong yet you just can't kick her ass to the curb where she belongs.  

Everybody Knows She's Mine (3:49)  This song is just locked down into a sweet little groove and is about as feel-good as you can get.  I've been digging on this song for a few years since I saw a live video of it on YouTube and it also appears on their 2011 "Live At The Georgia Theatre" DVD.  It is definitely a highlight on the album for me.  The guitar/piano solo spot and female background singers add a nice touch.  

One Horse Town (4:16)  Another tune I discovered through YouTube.  A song about growing up, wanting to leave yet remaining in a small town for the duration of ones life.  Acoustically driven with some sweet pedal steel throughout.  I could see this doing well at Country radio and CMT!

Ain't Much Left Of Me (4:58)  FINALLY!!!  I've seen this song performed live several times over the years and have bootlegs dating back to 2006 with this song.  So glad it has finally been put on an album.  A mid-tempo rocker where anyone who has been through a divorce could definitely relate to this song!!  

The Whippoorwill (5:31)  A gorgeous ballad that was written by Charlie about the memories of his Grandmother.  He discusses the song in depth on their DVD, "Live At The Georgie Theatre".  This is one of those songs where you could close your eyes and envision exactly what he is singing about.  

Lucky Seven (4:17)  One of the great things about music is that there always seems to be a song that you can relate to.  A song where you feel it was written about you, this is that song for me.  The song starts out mellow, kicks in at the chorus then backs off til the chorus comes back around and the song closes out with some beautiful guitar over sparse piano.    

Leave A Scar (3:34)  This tune is pure energy and attitude.  This should be a hellraiser live.  Really digg the banjo lines throughout it.  Can't wait to hear this one live!!!  

Crimson Moon (4:00)  Another rocker that was written with Zac Brown & Matt Mangano.  Lyrically about being teenagers in love growing up in a small town and wanting nothing more than to get the hell outta town.  This one should strike a nerve with anyone who hears it.

Ain't Got The Blues (4:03)  Starts out like your spinning a 78 on an old phonograph.  Has a real vintage quality about the recording method used on it.  A nice change of pace with its bluesy acoustic shuffle.  It will definitely get your feet to tappin or dancin if you have someone with you.    

Sleeping Dogs (3:22)  Another song that has been played live for ages alas "Ain't Much Left Of Me".  It is great to finally have a studio version.  A mellow groove that kicks in at the chorus and speaks of standing your ground when somebody pushes you over the edge.  Love the line "Make no mistake let there be no doubt. Paint me in a corner, I'll fight my way out.  The moral of the story brother, this is it. I'll be all over you like stink on shit!!!"

Shakin' Hands With The Holy Ghost (3:45)  The guitars on this track remind me of some major southern fried AC/DC riffage!!  This just locks into one of those power grooves and kicks major ass.  This is definitely going to be a must for any party & will get the ladies out dancing!!!

Up the Road (5:53)  A bluesy ballad to the end the record.  Lyrically it seems to be about a couple sticking through the hard times and coming out the other side together.  It is very laid back, tastefully played, even the solo yet builds momentum towards the end.  This will be one of those songs live where it lets a band stretch out and just jam. The only thing that really describes this tune is EPIC.  

In concluding,  I've listened to this album at least a dozen times and the band really hit the nail on the head with this one.  I think this will be the album that breaks the band into the mainstream.  They deserve it as I can't think of a nicer bunch of guys who truly love what they do as much as this band.  I've been fortunate enough to know them since 2002.  They are not scared to get out there and play.  

They've really jelled together since the addition of Brandon Still in 2009.  His abilities on the keys really bring the songs to a bigger place.  The rhythm section of the Brit & Richard lay down a solid foundation, Paul and Charlie really compliment each others styles very well while Charlie does his thing on the mic.  The finally were captured on tape how you see them live!!!  GREAT JOB GUYS!!!

Do yourselves a favor and go see this band L-I-V-E!!!!  For one, that is the only place you can get this album until it is released to stores on August 14th & besides that, LIVE IS WHERE IT IS AT WITH THESE CATS!!!

Blackberry Smoke is (L to R)
Paul Jackson, Brandon Still, Richard Turner, Charlie Starr and Brit Turner!!!