You’ve got to admire Blackberry Smoke’s work ethic. Constant touring sees them all across America and Europe and somehow they managed to squeeze in recording sessions for another album, barely a year and a half on from the last one. If any band adopted that infamous phrase of “Build it and they will come”, it’s Blackberry Smoke.
Find a Light sees the Atlanta quintet continue to make their Southern rock essentially for their own enjoyment and as it happens, others seem to agree. Self-produced, album six continues the trend. Infused with sounds of their back catalogue, they’ve tinkered with everything up to this point to bring a fresh perspective on it. There’s the heavy-handed Southern vibes of the first two albums, the edgier, harder sound found on The Whippoorwill, the safer sound on its follow-up and Like an Arrow’s rough around the edges tone.
It’s a showcase not only of what the band are capable of but also the different flavours Southern rock can serve up. Whilst they don’t push the envelope on this album, they’ve cherry-picked the best of their past and moulded it into one package. If you weren’t a fan before now, this won’t change your mind and if there’s a preference for how you want the Smoke to sound, you’ll only have a handful of tracks to pick from.
Self-producing sits well with them. Instead of letting them run for the hills and making something self-indulgent (as is often the case), they’ve gone in the completely opposite direction. They’ve made a tighter, more polished album than anything which came before. Songs like “Run Away From it All” and “Best Seat in the House” could easily have come from the first couple of albums and it’s clear they’ll be put into live sets. As for what else they pick from, there’s nothing which jumps out.
There’s a handful of guest appearances and whether it’s the slide guitar of Robert Randolph on “I’ll Keep Ramblin’” or Amanda Shires’ vocal work on “Let Me Down Easy”, they all add extra depth, not shoe-horned in for the sake of it. The former also features a gospel section working with vocalist Charlie Starr in call and response, the breakdown slotted in without feeling forced and similarly as the song leaves it behind.
As ever, the band are a tight unit, perhaps more than ever; there’s not an ounce of fat to be found here. It may not be their heaviest work, nor their best but it’s not a bad record by any stretch. Find a Light isn’t an ideal starting point for someone looking to delve into Blackberry Smoke’s world but it does showcase their different shades. This one’s for the fans, those who can hear those older sounds. Only then will you fully appreciate it for what it is.
Find a Light is released on 6th April