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'The Whippoorwill'
(Southern Ground Artists) Release Date: Autumn 2012 but is currently available at gigs

Phil Kane

phil kane

blackberry smoke the whippoorwill

Oh dear. There are those who claim the south will rise again. Well, seems they blinked because it looks like the bugger's already risen.

For all you wild eyed southern boys and girls out there Blackberry Smoke should already be a known entity. So for the benefit of the unacquainted, 'The Whippoorwill' is Blackberry Smoke's third album and is probably one of the best new southern rock albums to be released in a long, long time.

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Like all the other genres of rock n' roll, southern rock has not exactly got a lot left to discover about itself and these days' great albums are more about how it's done rather than what it does. With 'The Whippoorwill' Blackberry Smoke shows the genre can still be vibrant and in the process has created something that could prove to be just that little bit special and if the band keep on going as it is, fame and fortune beckon.

"None of us have ever said, 'Let's be a southern rock band or a bluegrass band or a country band'," Blackberry Smoke front man Charlie Starr explains. "We all love the Allman Brothers and Lynyrd Skynyrd and the Stones and the Faces and Hank Williams and Bill Monroe. It's not about what kind of music it is, as long as it's good and it's honest. When we get together it just sounds the way it does."

'The Whippoorwill' could be generally called a southern album yet such a sweeping generalization does the album no justice at all. It is the sort of rocked up southern Americana that, to paraphrase Mr T Petty, the young uns call country and the Yankees call dumb. It is a great sun cured mix of the sort of stuff, rock, country, blues and gospel, which make southern rock n' roll so good with Blackberry Smoke being unafraid to flaunt their influences loud and proud. The band has stumbled on a mix that touches something way down deep in your soul that I haven't heard since Marshall Tucker's debut first helped me empty of a bottle of Jack many years ago.

Fashioning a bit of a melting pot, the band has thrown in the back woods funk of the Black Crowes ('Ain't Much Left Of Me') and the chicken scratch immediacy of Dan Baird ('Everybody Knows She's Mine') with the rocked up new country of the Bottle Rockets and Drive By Truckers ('Pretty Little Lie' and 'Lucky Seven') and the twelve barre drive of The Georgia Satellites ('Six Ways To Sunday' and 'Shakin' Hands With The Holy Ghost').

The title track has an almost dreamy Floydian quality to it but the rolling groove of the old Allman Bros and the spirit of Skynyrd and the Tucker boys is never ever very far away. They even do a country blues ('Ain't Got The Blues') that could have been recorded straight out of an old Juke Joint. Scott H Biram would love it. Yet exceptional as they all are, it's the simple Springsteenesque imagery of 'One Horse Town' that will break your heart.

The whole thing is awash with the sort of gospel organ and honky tonk piano that Ian McLagan and the late Billy Powell made their own. Charlie Starr's vocal style sits somewhere between that of Chris Robinson and Cry Of Love's Kelly Holland and the backing vocals scream Honkettes at you.

'The Whippoorwill' was laid down during sessions done in various studios whilst on the road and you can tell because it has that recorded-on-the-road feel that oozes class. Man, if you close your eyes and concentrate you can smell the hot rubber and petrol. Shit, I bet when you open your eyes you will be covered in road dust too.

I'll tell ya, if this album doesn't reach down and touch you somewhere deep inside then you just ain't got a fucking heart to be touched.

There will be flocks of liberals with fascist tendencies decrying 'The Whippoorwill' as another album that reinforces their view that all southerners are wife beating, gun toting, hard drinking, bigoted rednecks. They are wrong because just like Skynyrd's 'God + Guns', it is more a homage to life in small town America, good old fashioned family values, having a good time and being left the fuck alone.

You need to do your black hearted city dwelling self a favour and get a copy and inject a bit of good old fashioned southern hospitality into your pitifully empty life. If you are reading this with your fat arse filling a chair somewhere in the USA then you are a lucky, lucky bastard because Blackberry Smoke is currently ripping up the road in the Sates as part of Eric Church's 'Blood, Sweat And Beers' Tour and according to their website, the band will be on the road from now till Christmas so you can go and see them and grab yourself a copy of 'The Whippoorwill' while you are at it, that's if you can get a ticket.

In short, 'The Whippoorwill' is superb and every home should have one.



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