The Georgia-based rock band Blackberry Smoke has been together for more than a decade, slowly building an audience the old-fashioned way by relentless touring — around 250 shows a year. The band came up on the same circuit as fellow Georgian (and now country music star) Zac Brown, who recently signed Blackberry Smoke to his record label and released its third full-length studio album, The Whippoorwill.
Like Lynyrd Skynyrd before it, Blackberry Smoke turns Southern music forms into radio-ready singalongs. The band's bold guitars, honky-tonk keyboards and deep roots in blues, boogie and gospel all propel the smoky voice of frontman Charlie Starr. But the lyrics on Blackberry Smoke's new album are introspective, examining themes of love and betrayal, family ties and growing old while you're still way too young. Starr, who wrote most of this material, crafts great, thorny relationship songs like "Pretty Little Lie," which is about forgiving a girlfriend for a major indiscretion.
On The Whippoorwill, Blackberry Smoke revisits the classic paradox of life in a small American town, the concurrent desires to stay and go, the conflicting feelings of loyalty and hopelessness, and the realization that giving up your own dreams might mean that your kids have a chance at a brighter future. In the process, many of these songs get to the heart of real issues in a way politicians wish they could.