Album Review – Blackberry Smoke – Holding All The Roses – Rounder Records (US) – Earache Records (UK)
That rowdy bunch of beard sportin’, Les Paul slingin’, bell bottom wearin’ long hairs from Atlanta in the Dirty South known as Blackberry Smoke are back with their intoxicating blend of Rock, Blues, Country Gospel and Bluegrass! The past few years have seen their popularity increase as a result of their relentless work ethic. Their last studio “The Whippoorwill” came out in 2012. Since then they’ve been busy playing 250+ shows annually in the US and Europe, had an AXS-TV Concert Special air and released a two cd/live dvd set entitled “Leave A Scar Live In North Carolina” in the Summer of 2014.
Somehow, the band managed to take off eleven days to record a new album with Producer Brendan O’Brien in Atlanta and Los Angeles. The band were finally able to record an album they wanted to make with a Producer they chose and didn’t have someone at a label meddling in their creativity. The band is as tight as ever musically, Charlie’s lyrics are words that everyone can relate to no matter what walk of life you come from and his sense of humor comes through more than ever and the production & mix is top notch. The results are a fantastic collection of twelve songs including one instrumental entitled “Holding All The Roses”.
The album gets off to a rockin’ start with “Let Me Help You (Find the Door)”, a Stones-y rocker about moving on from the status quo be it a relationship, work or just life in general. My mind wonders if it isn’t about their past experiences with record labels in the US? Charlie never ceases to amaze me with how he can turn a phrase. The title track, “Holding All The Roses” opens with some Bluegrass inspired picking before the band joins in a galloping number that lyrically continues a theme touched upon on the first song. The Bluegrass picking along with the violin in the breakdown is a nice lead-in to a blistering solo. Brit must have had a Nihilist flashback laying down the beats on this song! “Living In The Song” brings the tempo down just a bit while carrying on the reflective yet forward thinking lyrical theme of its predecessors. I really digg the sweet Southern flavored solo that takes you back to the days of Lynyrd Skynyrd, Blackfoot, and others. The first three tunes on the album just prove that music is cheaper than therapy as Charlie really dives into what may be ailing himself or those around him all-the-while showing there is light at the end of the tunnel.
“Rock And Roll Again” is a just a dirty little rocker praising the virtues of the opposite sex. Brandon’s keys add a lil’ boogie to the groove the Bros. Turner lay down on this ditty. Starting off with some subtle acoustic playing on the sultry “Woman In The Moon” really sets the vibe that is later accented by some strings and Brandon’s playing. Digg the way the solo ends….really trippy! I can see this track taking on a very epic psychedelic jammy vibe when played live. “Too High” is THE song on this album that I can’t wrap my mind around why I think it is the best tune on this album. The chorus is just perfect & I can hear this doing well at Classic Rock or Country radio. I’ve been at a loss for words when trying to describe this song to friends and we know that is a rarity…..me being at a loss for words.
“Wish In One Hand” ranks right up there with “Too High” as a favorite. A guitar driven rocker where I instantly thought of my Mom who passed away ten years ago when the chorus kicked in as “Wish in one hand, shit in the other. See which one fills up first!” was a saying I heard all-too-often from her. We all know someone that the verses describe. It is a favorite because A) it is a great tune and B) the sentimental value! That is what music is supposed to do…..strike a nerve, bring up a memory and touch on your emotions! “Randolph County Farewell” is just a mellow guitar piece that clocks in at 1:17 long. Not too flashy but impressive nonetheless. A staple of their live show for a while now, “Payback’s A Bitch” is lyrically a universal theme we can all relate to. Mid-tempo with a fat-bottomed groove that surely brings some crowd participation at the end of the chorus.
The acoustic based “Lay It All On Me” has an Classic Country vibe to it. Really digg the way the piano and lap steel add a Gospel flavor to the song. The lyrics weave an interesting tale. Another acoustically driven song gives Blackberry Smoke’s three part harmonies a chance to really shine on “No Way Back To Eden” and Brit gets a chance to get a lil’ funky on the percussive side of things. The solo section between Brandon’s ivory work & Charlie’s pickin’ is very interesting and adds a really cool vibe to the tune. The band can rock with the best but I really digg some of their more laid back stuff as it really shows the diversity of their influences and musicianship. Another live show staple for over a year, “Fire In The Hole” brings the album to a close on a more upbeat rockin’ note. A fat-groove lays a nice foundation to allow the vocal harmonies to shine throughout while Brandon adds in a hypnotic B3 solo before Paul Jackson and Charlie’s twin guitar attack solo kicks in.
Having followed the band since 2002, I believe they are on the cusp of breaking through to the next level. They definitely deserve it as they are genuinely a nice group of guys who treat their fans as friends not just paying customers. The band has taken the next step in regards to quality of the songs and the finished product, that usually just comes from experience but they have not lost the spirit that landed me as a fan back in 2002 when I received their original three song demo. In an industry full of manufactured artists and music, Blackberry Smoke & the music they make are an intoxicating breath of fresh air. I’m just waiting for the rest of the world to catch up a take a hit! Real music, filled with real emotions, played by people who are the real deal, on-stage and off.
Release Date in UK February 9th / in US February 10th
Earache Records (UK) / Rounder Records (US)
1. Let Me Help You (Find the Door)
2. Holding All The Roses
3. Living In The Song
4. Rock And Roll Again
5. Woman In The Moon
6. Too High
7. Wish In One Hand
8. Randolph County Farewell
9. Payback’s A Bitch
10. Lay It All On Me
11. No Way Back To Eden
12. Fire In The Hole
Blackberry Smoke (L to R):
Richard Turner – Bass, Vocals
Brandon Still – Keys
Paul Jackson – Guitars, Vocals
Brit Turner – Drums
Charlie Starr – Lead Vocals, Guitars
Photo © John Gellman
“Let Me Help You (Find the Door)” Official Lyric Video:
“Living In The Song”
For US Customers:
Purchase “Holding All The Roses” Bundle Pack Pre-Sale:
Purchase “Holding All The Roses” CD Pre-Sale:
Purchase “Holding All The Roses” Limited Edition Colored VINYL Pre-Sale:
Purchase “Holding All The Roses” from iTunes:
For European Customers:
Purchase various “Holding All The Roses” Pre-Sale Bundles:
Official Blackberry Smoke website: