Constant touring in order to build up a fan following and reputation while honing your stagecraft is a bit of a rock n’ roll tradition. Many bands have achieved careers this way like the giant AC/DC to name but one. Blackberry Smoke has been following this path, while like the early ‘DC, releasing albums to complement and cement their growing rise and also to secure future longevity. So they release their fourth studio album with a change of record label leaving Southern Ground Records and signing with Earache Records. They have employed fellow Atlantan Brendan O’ Brien‘s (AC/DC/Pearl Jam/Bruce Springsteen) production services and remarkably, according to one report I saw, recorded “Holding all the Roses” in little over a week.
The result is an album that should, at the very least, continue their ascendancy, but if there is justice, it should catapult them to higher levels of success. The production has a polish and shine on several tracks similar to Tom Petty’s mega-selling “Full Moon Fever” and that album is regarded as one of the best driving records. This could do the same for the Smoke but production is nothing without good quality songs and this is what they have all the way through. A blend of southern rock, county rock and Nashville country, it’s no surprise they are being compared to Lynyrd Skynyrd but they make the familiar sound so refreshing, vital and so effortlessly that in doing so they somehow create their own signature sound.
There are the rockers like ‘Holding All the Roses’, which also contains fiddle, and the joyously boogie sing-a-long ‘Rock n’ Roll Again’ which nearly had me breaking open the bourbon and strutting around the room but I thankfully held my spontaneous desire in check. The Lynyrd Skynyrd influences are more in evidence with my current album highlight ‘Wish in One Hand’, the swagger of ‘Payback’s a Bitch’ and album closer ‘Fire in the Hole’. The ultra-polish-and-shine production values in ‘Let Me Find You the Door’ and ‘Living in the Song’ should provide them with plenty of radio play on classic rock radio stations. They also foray into soulful country very successfully with ‘No Back to Eden’, a slight diverge into Honky Tonk courtesy of ‘Lay It All On Me’ and Nashville country with the rather classy ‘Too High’.
I’m sure one day in the future retro-looking rock music magazines will look back at this period with a best-of albums list of this rather good resurgence of the classic rock tradition. When they do this album should feature very high on the list alongside albums by the Rival Sons and The Temperance Movement. Blackberry Smoke have made a great album and have definitely “put the rhythm in my stride again”.