Following the band’s widely successful 2015 album, five-piece Southern Rock band, Blackberry Smoke, are set to release their fifth studio album, ‘Like An Arrow’ on Friday 14th October 2016 via Earache Records.
The latest album features twelve new tracks, which includes a feature from the one and only Gregg Allman, from the Allman Brothers Band.
‘Like An Arrow’ breaks out with their pure Rock ‘n’ Roll, riff-fuelled single, Waiting For The Thunder. Blackberry Smoke singer and guitarist Charlie Starr described this track as the statement which the band want to make, musically, and that lyrically, Waiting For The Thunder touches on how crazy the world seems right now.
His comments and lyrics couldn’t be more appropriate, especially with the current political position over in the United States. It’s a thought-provoking track, which ultimately makes it all the more stirring and significant to listen to, much like when Creedence shared their views on the Vietnam War.
Oh course, this is a strong reference, but the message isn’t far removed. They both aim to spread global awareness through the one method at their disposal, which is the music.
This switches to the surprisingly upbeat, honky-tonk rhythm track, Let It Burn, which tells the story of a man getting out of his hometown, and not giving a damn if the town burns to the ground in his absence.
Blackberry Smoke have always produced captivating acoustic numbers that have been staples in their live performances.
The Good Life is a great example of yet another lyrically-gripping acoustic number from Blackberry Smoke, guaranteed to captivate the audience at their future performances. One Horse Town is already a live favourite, and lulls the crowd into an immersive silence as they focus on the sound and story.
The Good Life could easily be considered a follow-up track to One Horse Town. While One Horse Town deals with a father who has greater aspirations for his kids, The Good Life focuses on the appreciation of a father’s wise words, and lifelong advice while growing up.
My only criticism would be that the chorus sounds a lot like Woman In The Moon from their Record Store Day release, ‘Wood, Wire & Roses’. In fairness, this track hasn’t been released on a full-length album, so I can’t condemn them for it, and it does work well on both tracks.
Although I’m sure the band tire of the comparison, Workin’ For The Workin’ Man is a valiant track, which echoes the style of Ronnie Van Zant, and the roots of true Southern Rock ’n’ Roll.
The influences don’t end there though – Believe You Me follows, with a change of pace from Blackberry Smoke’s usual style, embracing funk with a groovy bass lick unlike any of the other tracks the band have released before. While all Blackberry Smoke’s material employs a level of nostalgia for old school Southern Rock, Believe You Me really does take you back to the 70’s funk-infused era, with sounds reminiscent of Wet Willie and Grand Funk Railroad coming to mind.
Free on the Wing finally brings together both ends of the Southern Rock spectrum, with featured vocals from the legendary Gregg Allman. The duo of Starr and Allman is a warming harmony, which brings together Starr’s charismatic, serene tone and Allan’s soulful, defined voice and is the perfect way to finish the album.
Gregg Allman’s influence on Free On The Wing fitting to say the least – the two bands are natural performers who have shared the stage before, and go together like Rock and Roll. There’s no doubt the Allman Brothers Band has been a time-honoured influence to all the members of Blackberry Smoke in their early days, and it comes through in their music.
Blackberry Smoke are a quintessential example of why Southern Rock is such an appreciated genre all over the globe. For most fans outside of the Southern States of the US, Southern Rock isn’t the type of music we grew up listening to, but it has the power to grab our attention.
What it comes down to is the broad range of influence it encompasses, which is exactly what Blackberry Smoke demonstrate through ‘Like An Arrow’. Each song takes on a direction led by the lyrics, from Country to Blues, and from Funk to good old fashioned Rock ‘n’ Roll, there’s something for everyone, and each track has a relatable and well-constructed meaning.
The comedian Bo Burnham discussed modern-day Country music in a recent stand-up performance, when he described how most leading Country artists simply use keywords to ‘pander’ to their audiences, rather than writing songs with real substance and emotion. It’s safe to say that Blackberry Smoke distance themselves far away from this stigma, and are one of the minorities leading the fight in keeping the Country music alive and kicking.
Through their effort to produce music that is both lyrically and musically engaging, they manage to stand far out from the crowd, and it makes the listening experience much more sincere, especially on-stage.
The new album is available for pre-order across most platforms, and is set to be followed by a UK tour in Spring 2017, with tickets available now.
Recommended track – Sunrise In Texas
One of the things I love about these guys is how open they are to share their new music. Sunrise In Texas is yet another track shared by the band in anticipation of the new record, and became a favourite of mine as soon as I heard it. Starting out with a soothing resonator guitar slide, it’s a seriously elevating tune with a seriously catchy chorus. The song itself carries a stirring message about the world outside of your own bubble, which falls in line with the rest of the album perfectly.
The track finishes on a tearing guitar solo, before bursting into Starr’s lone vocals across the haunting chorus, which echoes in the back of your head forever and a day!
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
Monday 27th March – O2 Academy, Oxford
Tuesday 28th March – Roundhouse, London
Wednesday 29th March – Norwich Nick Rayns LCR UEA, Norwich
Friday 31st March – Manchester Academy, Manchester
Saturday 1st April – Olympia Theatre, Dublin
Monday 3rd April – Barrowland, Glasgow
Tuesday 4th April – O2 Academy, Newcastle
Thursday 6th April – O2 Academy, Bristol
Friday 7th April – O2 Academy, Birmingham
Saturday 8th April – Portsmouth Pyramids, Portsmouth