No Smoke Without Fire
Blackberry Smoke’s latest live album release Homecoming: Live in Atlanta (15 November 2019; Earache) is a thoroughly enjoyable romp through many of their biggest hits, including several from their studio album Find A Light, which was the best-selling Country and Americana/Folk album in the US in 2018. This 21 track double-album is the result of their live concert, which was also made into a film: "We are really excited to have everyone experience an Atlanta Homecoming show,” says lead singer and songwriter Charlie Starr. “We feel that Homecoming lets you hear and see how much fun we have at those shows."
For many years the Southern rock band – which features Richard Turner on bass, Brit Turner on drums, Paul Jackson on guitar, and Brandon Still on keyboards - has also been playing charitable gigs at Atlanta’s Tabernacle, which together have raised over $350,000 to benefit children’s cancer research. It is the perfect place for them to ‘feel the love’ and raise money because, as Starr says on the album, they are surrounded by their closest family and friends. It is in this convivial environment that the band produce their best performances, and that certainly seems reflected in the quality of the songs.
The album kicks off with an enthusiastic audience providing a rapturous welcome to the band, and specifically the rocking Nobody Gives a Damn, which features a burning guitar solo at around two minutes. The heavy rock sound continues with one of the band’s most popular tracks, Waiting for the Thunder, on which Starr can be seen playing his Gibson ES-345 in the attached video. Pretty Little Lie provides another crowd favourite, while Let it Burn features Starr on his Gibson SG Junior ‘62 Electric Guitar; we are now four songs in and the quality has not dropped one jot.
The two minute intro of Sleeping Dogs creates a wonderful atmosphere that has the crowd going wild, and heralds a jam-style track that lasts 14 minutes. The song contains an instrumental section and a version of the Beatles Come Together before returning to Sleeping Dogs; and the effect is simply trance-like. A five minute version of Ain’t Got the Blues is also enthusiastically received and provides a sing-a-long moment for the crowd: “I’m feeling fine, just as fine as wine, I can’t frown for grinning, I can’t lose for winnning, I ain’t got the blues anymore” they sing; and the emotion they create is infectious.
One Horse Town is another standout song, taken from 2012’s The Whippoorwill, which again finds the audience in fine voice: “In the tiny town where I come from, you grew up doing what your daddy does, And you don’t ask questions, you do it just because,” they chant. Starr shines again on Flesh and Bone, this time with his his Echopark Downtowner '55 Gold Custom guitar, while Tyler Bryant and The Shakedown were invited on to stage to contribute to a Rolling Stones version of Not Fade Away. If you are a fan of the Allman Brothers you’ll almost certainly like Blackberry Smoke’s treatment of this song; it is trippy, funky, and sure to have you moving your feet.
A twanging guitar-driven Amazing Grace surprisingly provides the perfect intro to a ten-minute version of Ain’t Much Left of Me, which closes the album. Here Blackberry Smoke return to the heavy rock vibe that opened the record, which again has the crowd lapping it up; and quite rightly, you’d have to be one of the walking dead not to feel uplifted by it. Blackberry Smoke are the real deal live, and this album captures both the quality of the sound and the fire; don’t miss it.