Blackberry Smoke are a southern rock/country rock band and seen by many as the spiritual heirs to the southern heritage of Lynyrd Skynyrd and The Black Crowes. Indeed, according to fellow southerners, Cadillac Three, “Blackberry Smoke are carrying forward the torch the Allmans and Skynyrd lit”. How true, or even accurate, this is is anybody’s guess, but what’s undeniable is they’re a difficult band to categorise and pigeonhole. They’ve had album successes with their last two albums, Holding All the Roses and Like An Arrow, in the Billboard top country albums charts, rock charts, indie charts and even the top 200 albums charts, so what this all means is that Blackberry Smoke are a band free to follow their muse wherever it leads. But, whilst they’ve come up with another good album, they’ve yet to come up with those ‘killer’ tracks which would elevate them up to the heights achieved by their predecessors; ie, a Freebird or a Whipping Post, tracks which will go down in music history as being forever associated with the band.
Nonetheless, Find A Light is an album where Blackberry Smoke plays to its strengths, which includes the fact their music draws from a wide range of influences, notably classic rock, country, blues and even folk. Their other strength is there’s nothing at all complicated about what they do. Their songs are straight ahead and simplistic, with no extended jams or breaks, and they’re all played with a groove and a swagger which can be infectious at times.
The album opens with ‘Flesh & Bone’, which limps almost guiltily into the daylight, with its message of “well, what can I do, I’m only flesh and bone”. This sets the tone for what’s to follow, and they proceed to give their fans exactly what they want with tracks like ‘Seems So Far’, ‘The Crooked Kind’ and ‘Run Away From It All’. A particular stand out track, for me, is ‘Medicate my Mind’, which invokes the spirit of Gram Parsons playing with Keith Richards when the Stones were laying down tracks for what eventually became ‘Let It Bleed’. There’s a groove to this track and it’s the first track on the album where the keyboard is noticeable. They even tap into their CSN side with the quite delightful ‘Mother Mountain’. A special shout out must go to ‘I’ll Keep Ramblin’, described as “this big beautiful jump blues-gospel explosion” with great backing from Sherita and Sherry Murphy.
Perhaps the most poignant track is ‘Best Seat in the House’. As Charlie Starr said, the band were listening to a playback, and thinking this sounds like Tom Petty, when news came through Petty had been found unconscious and sadly died later that same evening. The band decided to leave it in as homage to a fallen music giant.
In a recent interview Charlie Starr, who sports the best set of sideburns this side of Noddy Holder, claimed “This new album is a melting pot of Blackberry Smoke music with a wide range of sound and emotion. I think this is our most inspired work yet”. He has a point.