Please read this opening paragraph in the style of Hayseed Dixie‘s Barley Scotch: I have to testify! For I have sinned. Sinned by omission. I have failed to listen to the music of Blackberry Smoke in the past and for that sin I am paying by having missed out on some awesome country rock. But have no fear! For the chance for forgiveness is here in the form of a 2-CD live album, including a DVD. Praise the lord!
OK, I have another confession to make – I actually quite like country music. Given the fact that it involves guitars, bass, drums and singing it can hold its head up very high indeed in the sphere of “proper music” even if the songs are all about cheating, lying, drinking, killing and death. Hum. It actually has a lot in common with metal.
So anyway, it means I come to this album untainted by expectation. The band’s name gives no real clue to their musical style, I only know that they’ve appeared in a huge explosion – at least as far as the UK is concerned – in the last year or so. They’ve been treading the boards in the US for well over a decade (200 gigs a year for ten years – wowsers) and every minute of that experience comes through in the recording, and on the DVD.
Blackberry Smoke don’t play country-tinged rock. They don’t play rock-tinged country. They play a perfect 50/50 blend of the two.
For those looking for an introduction to a band, it’s often worthwhile pointing them at a best-of or live album. This is one of those excellent jumping-on points. I’m sure some fans more knowledgeable than I will be able to tell you how the set is split across their three albums; all I can tell you is that there is definitely material from each of them on here. Oh, and one previously unreleased song, “Payback’s a Bitch”.
The five-piece play together incredibly well, and on the video you can see them thoroughly enjoying themselves in front of a packed crowd. They’re very comfortable up there, led by singer Charlie Starr with his perfect Southern drawl vocals. The only thing missing is the occasional “yee-haw” and a Stetson being thrown in the air.
For those interested in the visual side of things, the DVD has 19 tracks on (the CDs have 22 across them) as well as some good extras. The little snippets of interview with Charlie and the rest of the boys are nice and personable and do set the band in a good light. The whole shebang comes in a triple-gatefold package. Alternatively, you analogue fans are catered to with a gatefold vinyl 2-disc release. Crackle-licious.
After selling out their UK tour in March, they’re on the road again in October so if this live album gives you an urge to see them in the flesh then you can catch them on the following dates. Assuming they’ve not sold out again already.
- Oct. 15 – Dublin, Ireland – The Academy
- Oct. 16 – Glasgow, UK – O2 ABC
- Oct. 17 – Manchester, UK – The Ritz
- Oct. 19 – London, UK – O2 Shepherd’s Bush Empire
- Oct. 21 – Cambridge, UK – Junction
- Oct. 22 – Birmingham, UK – The Institute
The track list for the album is as follows:
- Shakin’ Hands with The Holy Ghost
- Sanctified Woman
- Good One Comin’ On
- Six Ways To Sunday
- Ain’t Got The Blues
- Lucky Seven
- Pretty Little Lie
- Up In Smoke
- Crimson Moon
- The Whippoorwill
- Son of the Bourbon
- Everybody Knows She’s Mine
- One Horse Town
- Lesson In A Bottle
- Ain’t Much Left of Me
- Leave A Scar
- Sleeping Dogs
- Payback’s a Bitch
- Up the Road
- Shake Your Magnolia