Consider Blackberry Smoke a group of retro-sounding rockers who also cling to contemporary credence. While their sound is clearly modeled on certain Southern Rock standard bearers — Skynyrd, the Allmans, Marshall Tucker and the like — they’re wise enough to know that it takes more than a rebel yell to inspire a broad audience. Not surprisingly then, this Atlanta-based band has become a popular concert attraction with an ageless agenda and a sturdy work ethic as well.
Still, it’s not always easy to translate that gruff and gritty image to a studio setting, which makes any new album a challenging proposition to start with. Fortunately then, Find a Light not only manages to give it a go, but also comes across convincingly. For the most part, its songs take the form of relentless rockers; “Flesh and Bone,” “Run Away From It All,” “The Crooked Kind,” “Nobody Gives a Damn,” and “Best Seat in the House” ranks as the most bombastic entries in this brutish baker’s dozen. Those songs that lack an assertive stance are mostly mournful ballads, although even in the midst of their melancholia, they also express ways to hold onto hope. “I’ve Got This Song” and “Seems So Far” find remorse and resolve shared in equal measure, suggesting that salvation may not be as out of reach as it sometimes seems. Likewise, the gospel-like revelry of “I’ll Keep Ramblin’” with special guest Robert Randolph further affirms that upward glance. Meanwhile, cameos by Amanda Shires and the Wood Brothers underscore the sentiment.
Of course, Blackberry Smoke never has to strain to get their fans on their feet, evidence enough of their populist appeal. They wave their rebel banner proudly, sharing their stance through both verve and volume. It’s not new and it’s not novel, and it doesn’t exactly qualify as a cerebral set-up. Nevertheless, given their energy and enthusiasm, they’ve made their presence known. Image aside, these guys aren’t just humming Dixie.