This band’s sweet jams really jell around the hickory fires of a barbecue pit—or in the cigarette haze of a juke joint—so the handle Blackberry Smoke fits the Atlanta-based Southern rockers just fine.
“Chris Robinson of the Black Crowes suggested that one,” says Charlie Starr, front man and lyricist for the five long-haired country boys who teamed up twelve years ago and quickly established themselves as heirs to Lynyrd Skynyrd.
“We draw from traditional country, with that weepy, pitiful-sounding pedal steel, and throw in a little jazz,” says Starr, who learned mandolin as a child from his gospel-singing grandma in Alabama.
Blackberry Smoke produced two albums before old friend Zac Brown signed them to his Southern Ground Artists label. The resulting CD, The Whippoorwill, showcases those early sanctified, O Brother influences, from the sepia-toned liner notes to the sexy opening number, “Six Ways to Sunday,” about handling snakes and loving a woman until she talks in tongues. Blackberry Smoke finds its groove somewhere between Saturday night’s barstool and Sunday morning’s church pew.
Unabashed road dogs, the bandmates typically play more than 150 shows a year. See them September 8 at the Brothers and Sisters Music Festival at Masquerade Music Park. The lineup also includes North Mississippi Allstars and Unknown Hinson.
Photograph by Zack Arias