Review: Blackberry Smoke Is Still On Fire

Blackberry Smoke/You Hear Georgia/Thirty Tigers
Three out of Five Stars

Southern rock is an enduring institution, and for good reason. Ever since the ‘70s when it came of age, courtesy of the Allman Brothers, Lynyrd Skynyrd, Molly Hatchet, Marshall Tucker, and others of that ilk, its popularity has been solidly entrenched in its populist appeal. Its music is built on a genuine working class connection, one that leaves little distance or distinction between those making the music and the people that flock to hear it. Indeed, it’s a singular style based on blue collar conviction and an enduring narrative that’s bred in the heartland and shared with patriotic pride.

Blackberry Smoke are the natural successors to those aforementioned outfits that originated that original southern sound, and over the course of a 20-year career that’s yielded nine albums and assorted EPs, the Atlanta-based band has stayed true to their birthright by never wavering in either sound or sentiment. 

The band’s new album, You Hear Georgia, is a testament to that tenacity and an unapologetic ode to an insurgent attitude and tradition. That’s evident in practically every note and nuance, whether it’s the ragged yet relentless rockers such as “Live It Down,” “Morningside,” “All Over the Road,” and “All Rise Again” or a bruised ballad like “Old Enough to Know.” The gruff vocals, prominent slide guitars and purposeful posturing ensure the ties to the template remain intact, with attitude and aptitude remaining well in sync.

Still, there are times when that faithfulness to form veers into some obvious imitation. The steadfast stomp of “Hey Delilah” sounds like nothing more than a retread of Little Feat’s “Oh Atlanta.” Likewise, “Lonesome for a Lovin” is pretty much indistinguishable from any other brokenhearted ballad manufactured on Music Row. By this point, one would hope there would be a bit more originality in the offing. 

That said, Blackberry Smoke continues to deliver with the  assurance and dependability that their fans have come to expect. At this point, their chief priority seems centered on maintaining their dixie designs.

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