Blackberry Smoke- Holding All The Roses (ALBUM REVIEW)


blackberrysmokelpTouring relentlessly in support of their first three releases (over 2,000 shows in the last ten years) Blackberry Smoke has built a well-deserved reputation as the heirs to the southern rock music mantle.   Their latest effort and first for Rounder Records, Holding All The Roses, produced by Brendan O’Brien (Pearl Jam, Neil Young, Bruce Springsteen) was recorded in just over a week. Given the short time period, however, the recording does not seem to be made hastily. On the contrary, almost every number demonstrates the spot on harmonies over the amalgamation of complicated musical arrangements that dominate their live shows.

On “Let Me Help You (Find the Door)”  and the title track,  the album jumps off with band’s signature sound; singer Charlie Starr and Paul Jackson’s guitars layered over Richard Turner’s bass and drummer Brit Turner’s heavy groove. Riffs, harmonies and crash cymbals fill the entire tracks.    The release’s strongest material is found in the new ground the band breaks. The loose, brooding “Woman in the Moon” benefits from a slightly softer touch. Likewise, the 1970’s, country rock, acoustic sounding numbers “Too High” and “No Way Back to Eden” show the band progressing musically. The first track uses fiddle and Hammond B3 to create the retro sound while the latter employs The Billy Jacks on harmony over a Doobie Brothers like soul groove.

The one minute seventeen second, “Randolph Country Farewell” a Starr solo acoustic instrumental while interesting seems like a great introduction to another song that ultimately never comes.   Traditional Smoke fans will find the anthem like big guitar numbers on which the band built their following, rocker “Wish In One Hand” has the sing along chorus, “Wish in one hand shit in the other/See which one fills up first for you brother.” Starr belts it out over “Payback’s a Bitch” and the guitars and vocals are stacked on “Fire in the Hole” with a psychedelic bridge adding a nice contrast to the in your face number.    Two tracks, “Living in the Song” and “Rock and Roll Again” don’t benefit from some of the other track’s uniqueness nor are they as strong as numbers featuring the sound for which Smoke is known.

Holding All The Roses is the band’s slickest sounding album to date, as O’Brien has polished the band’s rough edges although this appears to be intentional. “In the past, we never really had the resources to make the kind of records we wanted to make,” says Starr, adding, “But this time around, everything lined up, and we were able to create an album that covers a lot of musical ground and works as a listening experience from beginning to end.” This smoother sound may take a few spins of the album to get used to, but Blackberry Smoke fans won’t be disappointed once they do.


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