Blackberry Smoke stay true to form on ‘Like an Arrow’

This article originally appeared in the Kentucky Kernel.

With nearly 17 years under their belts, the members of Blackberry Smoke have seen just about everything. According to guitarist Charlie Starr, even with everyone in the group being well into their forties, they still have fans throwing bras and panties at them on stage at shows. However, despite the craziness around them, Blackberry Smoke have been able to keep cool and stay true to themselves as so much in the world changes around them.

“Over the years we’ve learned to let the music breathe,” Starr said. “You grow comfortable playing with each other and you don’t get in such a hurry. You kind of let it open up a bit.”

Blackberry Smoke, headed by Starr on guitar, also consists of Richard Turner on bass, Brit Turner on drums, Paul Jackson on guitar and Brandon Still on keys, and is fresh off the release of ‘Like and Arrow’, their sixth studio album.

For the record the group ventured to Quarry Recording Studio outside their hometown of Atlanta, laying down tracks over a one month period with engineer Billy Joe Bowers, whose worked with the likes of Pearl Jam, Chris Cornell and Bad Religion in the past. Blackberry Smoke was joined by southern rock icon Gregg Allman in the studio, who laid down guitar riffs for the album’s final track “Free on the Wing.”

Starr was the primary songwriter for ‘Like an Arrow’, with Stills lending a hand on a couple of tracks. With the hustle and bustle that comes with being a musician, it can often times be difficult capturing lightning in a bottle ideas. Recent technological advances have allowed for easier avenues for capturing those moments, and Starr has taken full advantage.

“Touring so often I’ve had to learn how to stockpile ideas, and not just on bar napkins,” Starr said. “With the help of Garage Band and others programs it makes it a hell of a lot easier to save ideas.”

One aspect of technology that irks Starr is how engineers and others in the recording industry are now trying to use it to perfect everything, oftentimes removing the authenticity and human element from the music. 

Starr recalled a recent discovery of deconstructed versions of songs from The Beatles album “Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band” that isolated vocal, drum and guitar tracks. Starr noted how when played alone each instrumental track has obvious imperfections, but when played together is much more appealing, leading to the belief that music has always been about the sum of all its parts rather than one person or instrument.

“What’s perfect about it is how it sounds when it they’re all playing together,” Starr said. “In the recording industry so much effort has been put into trying to perfect everything and it’s been proven that the tiny imperfections are the things that are so appealing to our ears.”

Blackberry Smoke’s southern rock’n’roll circus comes to Lexington for a show on Feb. 16 at Manchester Music Hall with support from Steel Woods.

 IF YOU GO

What: Blackberry Smoke, Steel Woods
When: 7 p.m. Thursday Feb. 16
Where: Manchester Music Hall
Tickets: $26-35

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