Title: Holding All The Roses
Artist: Blackberry Smoke
Genre: Southern Rock/Country Rock
With songs as diverse as the dishes of food on Grandma’s Sunday afternoon dinner table, Holding All The Roses, the fourth studio album from Atlanta’s Blackberry Smoke, is a record that shows a band that is maturing, both musically and thematically. And is if that wasn’t enough, the record, which was produced by Brendon O’Brien (AC/DC, Pearl Jam, Bruce Springsteen), just sounds great.
Lyrically, Charlie Starr sings of love lost on “Living in the Song,” revenge on “Paybacks a Bitch”, narcissism and the need for some people to be the center of attention on “Wish in One Hand”, and the destructive power of drugs and hopelessness on the heartbreakingly honest “Too High.”
Musically, the band is in top form throughout the album. The first track, “Let Me Help You (Find the Door),” is a solid southern rock song that hits you right between the eyes. The title track is a great bit of southern boogie, with great acoustic guitar and fiddle interplay, followed by a rocking electric guitar solo. “Rock and Roll Again,” the first song I heard via streaming prior to the release of the album, is a fun song with an old time rock n roll vibe, with a little edgy electric guitar thrown in for good measure. “Lay It All on Me” is a simple country song that is held together with Brandon Still’s piano and keyboard work, along with some fine steel guitar.
Blackberry Smoke’s rhythm section, consisting of Brit Turner on drums and Richard Turner on bass guitar, lays a solid foundation throughout the album. Brandon Still’s keyboards, though understated much of the time, really shine through, particularly when he’s providing thoughtful texture with what sounds like a Hammond B-3 organ. The guitar duo of Charlie Starr and Paul Jackson is a solid as any duo out there in country music and southern rock. Charlie Starr’s vocals are distinctly southern – soft and melodic, loud and gruff – perfect for the band’s music.
Though I’m a self-professed prog-rock snob, Blackberry Smoke came onto my radar in 2013 when I was flipping through the channels and came across one of their concerts. What I saw and heard took me back to 70s-era southern rock – Lynyrd Skynyrd, the Allman Brothers, Blackfoot, and Molly Hatchett – stuff I listened to on WFBQ-Indianapolis as a preteen and teenager. Blackberry Smoke’s heartfelt music and honest lyrics about everyday problems really appealed to me. I immediately went out and purchased all of their music. Holding All The Roses has all of that and more. The music has a universal appeal that is sure to span genres and generations. Thanks for keeping it real guys!