By Dave Resto
Since their debut in 2000, Atlanta-based Blackberry Smoke have become much-beloved by legions of loyal Southern rock fans. With their self-produced release, Like an Arrow (Earache Records, 2016), the band’s fifth studio album and a major creative step forward in their continuing evolution, you’ve got to believe that there will be many more converts to the cause.
The twelve songs on Like an Arrow are testaments to the songwriting prowess of guitarist and vocalist Charlie Starr, as well as to the instrumental virtuosity of Starr and his bandmates: Paul Jackson, guitar and vocals; Brandon Still, keys; Richard Turner, bass and vocals; Brit Turner, drums. Together, they effortlessly move back and forth between old-school country and classic hard rock, touching on several other genres along the way.
‘Waiting for the Thunder’ charges in with a furious power-chord phrase to match the fury of the lyrics which are about to follow in this blistering lead-off track. “Light the fuse and run now brother, ‘cause you ain’t got a lotta time; better make your get away quick so you don’t have to answer why,” howls Starr over drums that sound like a stomping T-Rex. Crunching twin guitars, rumbling bass and dirty keys are packed in to create a formidable sonic tidal wave that washes over you and knocks you on your ass.
Starr uses his admirable gift for songwriting, both structurally and lyrically, to create the various array of compositions which ultimately makes Like an Arrow the modern masterpiece it is. From the raucous, almost rockabilly ‘Let it Burn,’ where he gleefully and unapologetically sings of burning down a town he can’t wait to leave behind (“I’ll watch the flames light up the sky; blow ‘em a kiss as I wave goodbye.”) to ‘The Good Life’, a lump-in-the-throat ode to fatherhood, set to a country waltz tempo, he doses out equal parts humor and sentiment to legitimately sell his story-telling.