Cleveland, Ohio — blackberry smoke celebrated their 20th anniversary as a band last year.
But it was 10 years ago, with their third album “Whippoorwill”, that the Atlanta quintet really caught fire.
The 13-track set was recorded for the Zac Brown Band’s Southern Ground Records label and partly produced by Brown and bandmate Clay Cook, who also performed on “One Horse Town”. “The Whippoorwill” gave Blackberry Smoke its first chart success, reaching No. 8 on the Billboard Top Country Albums chart and No. 40 on the Billboard 200. The singles “Pretty Little Lie” and “Ain’t Much Left of Me” have remained staples in the band’s repertoire, and Blackberry Smoke will perform the rest of the album in its entirety this fall to mark their moment in history.
This tour stops in Cleveland on Friday, October 7 for a concert at TempleLive at the Cleveland Masonic Auditorium.
“It’s amazing to think it’s been a decade,” frontman and co-founder Charlie Starr said over the phone as he picked up his son from school. “When I put this music on, I can still see that (studio) piece. We were only there for seven days, but I see it as clearly as I can. It’s really hard to believe we’re 10 years old. more and 10 years less.”
But, adds Starr, “I don’t think it sounds dated or anything like that. I think it sounds as fresh now as when we first released it.
Ten years later, “The Whippoorwill” does sound like a sort of Southern rock landmark. Like the best of their predecessors, Starr and company straddled a line between feisty music and introspective lyrics – even though on one track he declares he “don’t have the blues”. There’s still a “Little Piece of Dixie” from Blackberry Smoke’s previous album of this title, but this time there was more of a mix of genres, with more crunch and some ambitious melodic and compositional experimentation that were certainly an evolution – which can be heard in demo versions of tracks the band released in August as part of the commemoration.
“It’s always amazed me that people like it as much as they do, not that I don’t think it’s worth it,” Starr says. “I’m very proud of it. I love it. Every time we make a record, our fans tell us, “Is it as good as this? It is really the reference for our group. It’s the touchstone of Blackberry Smoke.
The group has certainly used this launching pad well. He’s released four more studio albums, including last year’s “You Hear Georgia,” which debuted at No. 1 on the Americana/Folk Albums chart. Blackberry Smoke also covered his favorite Rolling Stones songs last year with the “Stoned” EP. He came out of the Covid hiatus on tour again and broke sales records with his Blackberry Smoke American Lager beer.
The only glitch along the way was a heart attack suffered by drummer Brit Turner, who just returned to active duty with the band last month after going on medically prescribed leave. “It was a scary situation,” Starr admits. “When a member of the band has a heart attack, it’s like, ‘OK, we’re not kids anymore.’ It makes you want to go. “
While celebrating its “Whippoorwill” past, however, Blackberry Smoke looks to the future. In addition to tour dates this month, the band will return to RCA Studio A in Nashville with Grammy-winning producer Dave Cobb (Chris Stapleton, Brandi Carlile, Jamey Johnson, Jason Isbell), who also worked on “You Hear Georgia.” Starr says, unsurprisingly, the new hardware is “really good” and, as is usual with Blackberry Smoke, extremely diverse.
“It’s everywhere, as usual,” he explains. “Every time we put out a record, it seems to be a recurring theme that people try to find a common denominator for that batch of songs, and there never really is one. The only thing they have in common , is that they’re all different. They don’t relate to each other, other than they’re on the same record. That’s how we like it.
“The funny thing is, ‘You Hear Georgia’ doesn’t feel that old to me, even though it’s been out globally for over a year now. So we have that (album) and what’s new at come – just a lot of music, that’s what we like to do.
Blackberry Smoke performs Friday, October 7 at TempleLive at the Cleveland Masonic Auditorium, 3615 Euclid Ave. Doors 7:00 p.m. 216-881-6350 or masoniccleveland.com.