Blackberry Smoke “Be Right Here”

2024, 3 Legged Records / Thirty Tigers

artwork for Blackberry Smoke album "Be Right Here"

Eighth studio album from Atlanta, Georgia’s americana rockers delivers a broader palette whilst still staying true to their bourbon-soaked southern roots.

artwork for Blackberry Smoke album "Be Right Here"Having recorded their seventh album ‘You Hear Georgia’, during the most intense and restrictive period of the Covid pandemic, the boys from Georgia chose to hold off releasing the album until it was safe to go back on the road. A similar approach has been required with this new release ‘Be Right Here’, having been completed almost a year ago but held back until now due to drummer Brit Turner being diagnosed with a brain tumour for which he is still receiving treatment whilst remaining an active force within the band.

Produced like its predecessor by Dave Cobb, whose previous collaborations include such luminaries as Jason Isbell and Chris Stapleton, and recorded mostly at Nashville’s legendary RCA Studio A, ‘Be Right Here’, continues in a similar vain with Cobb managing to eke out a little more creative variety and colour to the traditional blues-based southern rock that the band have become such fine exponents of over the last two decades. Those trademarks are very much to the fore on the opening three numbers where ‘Dig A Hole’ kicks off proceedings with its heavy psychedelic riff playing counterpoint to Charlie Starr’s vocals that conjures up memories of eighties arena rockstar Billy Squier. This is quickly followed by the blue-collared anthem of ‘Hammer And The Nail‘, before some tasty slide guitar adorns ‘Like It Was Yesterday’, whilst all treading familiar territory.

It takes until track four ‘Be So Lucky‘, for the breakneck pace to ease and deliver up a slice of Tom Petty-styled melodic rock complete with catchy chorus and exquisite guitar playing from Paul Jackson which is followed by one of the album’s standout tracks ‘Azalea’. Here the acoustic arrangement and sagacious lyrics that house the album’s title, conjures up memories of early seventies Allman Brothers, or even Kansas and their classic AOR number ‘Dust In The Wind’, as Starr offers up his pearls of wisdom “half the learning’s in the leaving”, whilst some sublime mandolin playing acts like a prism showering colour over this delightful track.

The subtle mix continues, initially with country rock overtones, tongue-in-cheek humour, and infectious chorus of ‘Don’t Mind If I Do’, before ‘Watchu Know Good’, finds the band knee-deep in a swamp sodden, behind-the-beat groove, reminiscent of the great J.J. Cale or the maestro Tony Joe White, complete with some lazy slide guitar. That same instrument impressively underpins the next track ‘Other Side Of The Light’, though at a slightly quicker tempo which is maintained through to the next song, the blues/gospel soaked ‘Little Bit Crazy’, with a riff that’s straight-out of Keith Richards back catalogue along with some wonderful backing vocals from ‘The Black Betty’s’, whose contribution over several tracks throughout the album helps add a greater dimension to the vocal arrangements. The rock ballad ‘Barefoot Angel’, brings the album to a close with its gentler acoustic verse leading to a rousing if somewhat predictable anthemic chorus.

Blackberry Smoke have never aspired to re-invent the wheel, more than happy to wear their influences proudly on their sleeve, but here in the third decade of the twenty-first century there are few if any better exponents of country rock and with the help of Cobb at the helm they have managed to expand their sound whilst still staying true to their musical values. Two decades and eight albums into their career and ‘Be Right Here’, may well be Blackberry Smoke’s finest offering to date.

8/10
8/10

About Graeme Tait 125 Articles
Hi. I'm Graeme, a child of the sixties, eldest of three, born into a Forces family. Keen guitar player since my teens, (amateur level only), I have a wide, eclectic taste in music and an album collection that exceeds 5.000. Currently reside in the beautiful city of Lincoln.
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Martin Johnson

Americana UK recently chatted with Charlie Starr. Interview coming soon.