By: Laura Youngs
Photo Courtesy: Concord Music Group
A line of fans snake around the building of the River Road Ice House in New Braunfels. In spite of the almost suffocating Texas humidity people have been waiting for almost two hours for the club doors to open in order to get a place in the coveted front row to see Southern rock sensation Blackberry Smoke.
Ask someone if they have heard of the band and you will generally get either a blank stare or an enthusiastic “yes” so I am curious as to how people have come to discover them. I wind my way through the crowd to ask just that. I get mostly mentions of youTube, Pandora or the MTV Palladia Channel. Ellen and her husband came from Houston and have seen them no fewer than five times in the past year.
“We first saw them when they opened up for Zak Brown”, she said. “After the show we bought their music instead of Zak Brown’s and have been fans ever since”.
Another gentleman responds that he searched their music after VH1 host Jim Florentine of “That Metal Show” wore the bands t-shirt on the air. When asked who he thought could become the next future classic rock stars Florentine named Blackberry Smoke as his #1 pick.
The Atlanta-based quintet is certainly not new to the music scene. Members Charlie Starr, Paul Jackson, Brandon Still and brothers Richard and Brit Turner have been together since 2000, cultivating a fiercely loyal grass-roots following along the way. They are without a doubt one of the hardest working bands in the business with a grueling tour schedule of over 250 days a year. This includes three European tours as well as a recent jaunt to Australia.
In between shows the band has also found time to record four studio albums (with a fifth coming out later this year), 3 EP’s and a live compilation. Their fourth studio album, Holding All the Roses, debuted at number one on Billboard’s Top Country Albums in 2015 and at the same time reaching number 7 on the Top Rock Albums chart. Produced by Grammy-winner Brendan O’Brien the 12-song compilation cannot be pigeon-holed into any particular genre. Critics label Blackberry Smoke as Southern rock and I understand how. Influences of bands like Lynrd Skynrd, the Rolling Stones, Aerosmith and even the Beatles can be detected in their music. Each song , however, is unique and stands firmly on its own with lyrics at times humorous and at other times emotionally charged but always clearly telling a story. Their unique blend of rock and alternative country and blues has brought them a legion of fans that include ZZ Top’s Billy Gibbons, Dierks Bentley, Grace Potter, Gregg Allman , Jamey Johnson and country music legend George Jones, who was featured on their second album singing “Yesterday’s Wine”.
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