Chart-topping American rockers Blackberry Smoke add another chapter to their already-impressive body of work with the brand new album You Hear Georgia. Set to explode into the world May 28th, 2021 by way of Thirty Tigers, the new record was produced by Dave Cobb (Jason Isbell, Brandi Carlile) and marks the band’s 20th anniversary in the original music game. It also feels like an homage to Blackberry Smoke’s home, meant to convey the huge musical legacy that the great state of Georgia has contributed to American culture.
You Hear Georgia honors the people, places, and sounds that are the roots of the band as a unit and of its members. Band personnel Charlie Starr (vocals, guitar), Richard Turner (bass, vocals), Brit Turner (drums), Paul Jackson (guitar, vocals), and Brandon Still (keyboards) turn in a slew of hot takes on these tracks. The album also features special guests Jamey Johnson and Warren Haynes (Allman Brothers, Gov’t Mule) as well as background vocals from The Black Bettys.
Together since 2001, Blackberry Smoke has toured and made music relentlessly, building a massive following the real way. The band deftly blends influences including Tom Petty, the Allman Brothers Band, Lynyrd Skynyrd, and Hank Williams Jr. into a style of American music that is as much about meaningful songwriting as it is riffs and solos. They’ve worked with ZZ Top, The Zac Brown Band, and Eric Church, and have seen their last four albums breach the top ten on the Billboard Country Charts, two of them ascending to Number One, and appeared on NBC’s Last Call with Carson Daly. Blackberry Smoke’s music has also been prominently included in the hit TV show Yellowstone.
Producer Cobb and the band tracked You Hear Georgia in Nashville’s famous RCA Studio. A live off the floor and down-and-dirty energy is evident from the first cut “Live It Down.” The guitars sound incredible, Starr’s vocals are stronger than ever, and the rhythm section is absolutely cracking. The entire crew goes hard out of the gate and you just know the rest of this set is going to burn the barn down.
The title song, “You Hear Georgia,” is a tight bit of classic Southern Rock that addresses the misguided stereotypes often inflicted upon people with roots in the American South. “Lyrically, the song is about the South being misunderstood,” Starr explains. “It started with the idea of how people might have a preconceived opinion of you because of a thick Southern accent, then expanded into the reality of how some people just seem to have such a hard time getting along, thanks to political or religious views, or simply what part of the country you come from.” Led by Starr and his instantly recognizable soulful vocals, the track is flush with tasteful guitar and the band’s trademark harmonies.
“Hey Delilah” is a funky mid-tempo dance floor filler in the New Orleans/Little Feat style. It’s a sweet and smooth good-time jam that shows the groove-a-licious side of this potent outfit. Little wonder it was picked as a single. Jamey Johnson takes a star turn on the honky-tonk anthem “Lonesome For A Living” and his fully-legit country vocals add grit and grace to an already-powerful song. The band even ices the cake for you with some heart-rending pedal steel licks that will put the tears in your beer. This is the strong stuff.
Warren Haynes is his usual hot-handed self on the optimistic “All Rise Again,” which he co-wrote with Charlie Starr. The track surges and grinds under Haynes’ authority and is one of the coolest guitar moments captured during these sessions. “Morningside” and “Old Scarecrow” are also must-hear cuts. Blackberry Smoke casts a long shadow with You Hear Georgia. It’s a wonderful album that fans of 100 proof American music will be spinning all Summer.
Watch “Hey Delilah”
Pre-order link for You Hear Georgia