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Blackberry Smoke

Like An Arrow – 2016 (Three Legged/Thirty Tigers)

Reviewed by Dan MacIntosh

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CDs by Blackberry Smoke

Blackberry Smoke may never fit into any country music traditionalist's definition of true country music. The guitars are too loud and the there's far more boogie than twang in the act's sound. Nevertheless, this act fits squarely into the description of fine Southern rock. "Like an Arrow" hits all the right stylistic marks.

"The Good Life," for instance, doesn't align itself with many of the usual sonic elements of a country song, but its lyric - all about passing down wisdom and common sense from one generation to the next - would make for a fantastic country song with just a few instrumental tweaks here and there. "What Comes Naturally," due to its loose, party atmospherics, creates a wonderful, laidback, bluesy groove. The band is joined by certified Southern rock legend Gregg Allman for "Free On the Wing." This song includes a simple, but true observation on the passing of time: "One love story's over and another's just begun." Colored by slide guitar and easygoing guitar picking, this track carries with it a patient view of life so common in Southern music. It's kind of alternate perspective from the album's opener, the much louder and more restless "Waiting for the Thunder," which worries about all the craziness in modern life. "Free on the Wing" reminds us, though, that - in spite of all the human insanity - life still goes on.

Blackberry Smoke reveals its versatility with "Believe You Me," a song that gets down to a funky groove. It's driven by some especially soulful organ fills. "Ain't Gonna Wait" unplugs the rock thunder for a brief moment to give us a lovely acoustic intermission. The band is at its angriest during "Workin' for a Workin' Man," where they sing a new variation on Merle Haggard's "Workin' Man Blues" theme.

Just as country music has its beloved traditions, Southern rock can point back to a kind of classic rock subcategory all its own. With "Like an Arrow," Blackberry Smoke proves that Southern rock remains a relevant forum for quality Southern musical ruminations.