True story; trying to park up in Sauchiehall Street in Glasgow a few years back, just before Blackberry Smoke made their Scottish debut, noticed half a space just after their tour bus and figured that I could squeeze in there no problem. I started doing the reversing-at-speed-trick, just at the moment that the tour bus door opened onto the road and ‘Smoke frontman Charlie Starr popped out to stretch his legs. I reckon that I’ve never braked so hard in my life, and afterwards had to peel my hands off the steering wheel to loosen the grip. Starr never so much as batted an eyelid as he gave me a quick glance, before walking through the crowd and into the venue. Panic over, Blackberry Smoke went on and played a killer debut show that was originally booked into a much smaller venue. Four years later they have gone from strength to strength.
‘Find A Light’ is the third studio album since ‘The Whippoorwill’ received its European release in 2014, and comes some eighteen months after ‘Like An Arrow’ gatecrashed the UK album charts. It’s a Blackberry Smoke album, so you should know what to expect, and shame on you for thinking anything different! There is something warm and comforting in a new album from the Georgia natives, and ‘Find A Light’ offers up the usual smorgasbord of Southern Rock, Country Rock, Country and plain old Rock music. Fecking genres! Enough to make your head spin.
‘Find A Light’ starts with a belting ‘Peter Gunn’ guitar vibe on ‘Flesh And Bone’, and it’s not long before Brandon Still wraps everyone up in his majestic keyboard sound. It’s a fantastic guitar track with some incredible work from Starr and fellow guitarist Paul Jackson. It has a great swagger to it, although the “Grungy” description that Rolling Stone gave it is a bit of a puzzle. Before long we are back in familiar territory with the shuffling ‘Run Away From It All’, which benefits from strong pounding drums from the big fella at the back, Brit Turner, as well as some cool bass licks from the other Turner, Richard. ‘The Crooked Kind’ is faster in tempo with a lovely swing to it, and a laid back mid section. In anyone else’s hands it could be quite a toothless track, but Starr and Jackson both flourish throughout.
One of many highlights is the keyboard-heavy ‘Best Seat In The House’. Brandon Still is all over the track and the end result is what I feel is a perfect tribute to a much missed legend – Tom Petty. Georgia is only a few hours north of Gainesville, Florida, and if the track was intended as a tribute to Petty, then it’s a barnstormer. Another highlight is ‘I’ll Keep Ramblin’’; The Allman Brothers for a new generation, mixed with a Gospel choir shit-kicking, foot stomping romp, that echoes James Brown in The Blues Brothers movie. It’s so full of life it’s impossible not to enjoy. You might want to check for a pulse if you don’t turn up the volume during this one.
The softer side to Blackberry Smoke is also present many times over; the laidback, trippy ‘Medicate My Mind’, the stripped down bare bones of ‘I’ve Got This Song’, and ‘Seems So Far’, but it’s the joyous ‘Let Me Down Easy’ which lingers the longest. A duet between Starr and the incredible award winning vocalist Amanda Shires, it is simply beautiful with a gorgeous guitar tone from Starr. Three minutes to make you tune in and forget about what ails ya.
Blackberry Smoke are back with new music, and suddenly the world seems a much nicer place.
Available April 6th through Earache Records. More information on their website.