More than four years after releasing its hit album Find a Light, southern rock band Blackberry Smoke returned this week with an equally strong new record in Georgia You Hear. The band’s seventh album, this record is everything that audiences have come to expect from the band, which has been called one of the best of the genre by many audiences and critics. That is due in part to its featured musical arrangements. They will be discussed shortly. The lyrical themes that are featured throughout the album add a second layer of appeal to the record. They will be discussed a little later. The record’s sequencing rounds out its most important elements and will be addressed later, too. Each item noted here is important in its own way to the whole of the album’s presentation. All things considered, they make the album a successful presentation from beginning to end.
Blackberry Smoke’s seventh full-length studio recording, Georgia You Hear is a record that every listener will want to hear. Yes, that awful pun was intended. That is due in no small part to its featured musical arrangements. The arrangements in question largely boast the band’s familiar southern rock tones and stylistic approaches. At the same time though, they also present a subtle variety from one to the next. The band even goes full-on country at one point – ‘Lonesome for a Livin’ (ft. Jamey Johnson).’ On a side note, rumblings are that Johnson, who is an outstanding artist in his own right, is finally mapping out his possible first new album in years. One can only hope and pray that it happens. Getting back on topic, the arrangements here take audiences in a variety of directions, even as they remain within the southern rock genre from one to the next. Case in point is the arrangement featured in the album’s opener, ‘Live It Down.’ There is something about the arrangement here (including the vocal delivery style of front man Charlie Starr) that makes the composition comparable to works from the likes of The Black Crowes. That should come as no surprise to the band’s established audiences. Those audiences know that the band has shown such similarities in its past records, too. Luckily though, Blackberry Smoke’s members did not just rehash the sounds of those songs here. Rather, it is its own original work.
As the album progresses, the noted diversity is just as evident in ‘Old Enough To Know.’ The twang of the steel pedal and the simple percussion against Starr’s bittersweet vocal delivery and guitar performance lends itself to comparison to works from the likes of James Taylor, Bob Dylan, and even Hank Williams, Sr. This subdued, simple song is a wonderful break point for the record that keeps things just interesting enough to keep audiences engaged.
On yet another note, ‘All Over The Road,’ the album’s penultimate entry, the band mixes its familiar southern rock sounds with a bit of Americana to make for even more evidence of the diversity in the album’s musical content. The classic Americana element is most evident in the use of the upbeat piano line. The more southern rock sound at times conjures thoughts of Tom Petty, ZZ Top and even, again, The Black Crowes. The whole makes the song yet another work that audiences will enjoy while also showing even more, the diversity in the album’s musical arrangements, even though the arrangements stay within the confines of the southern rock genre. The positive impact of the musical arrangements featured in this record is only a part of what makes the record successful. The lyrical themes featured in the record are just as diverse (and accessible) as the record’s musical arrangements.
The lyrical themes will connect with audiences just as easily as their musical counterparts. Case in point is the theme featured in ‘Old Scarecrow,’ the album’s closer. This song’s lyrical theme presents a message of self-assurance and personal identity. Starr sings here about not caring about “the year’s new model” and states “I might be a little ragged around the edges…I look at these two hands/And I know there’s someone watching over me.” He adds, “I ain’t never gonna change my ways.” This is that defiant message noted. It is that proverbial middle finger to the status quo, telling people that the subject is going to be who he is, trends be damned. Again, it is a familiar theme that is used across the musical universe. It is presented in a familiar fashion that will resonate with audiences just as much as in any other case.
‘Hey Delilah’ presents another familiar lyrical theme. The theme in question is that of a man who is head over heels for a woman. Apparently in this case, the woman’s name is Delilah. Starr recalls here how the woman influenced him (or the song’s subject), even describing how she looked and how it drove him crazy. That against the song’s musical arrangement, whose southern rock style and sound conjures thoughts of Lynyrd Skynyrd, makes for even more enjoyment here. It makes the song’s lyrical theme that much more accessible, in turn, showing even more why the album’s lyrical themes are so important to its presentation.
‘Morningside’ is yet another example of the variety and impact of the album’s lyrical content. In this case, the band presents in very unique fashion, what comes across as a message about making it through life’s difficult times. That is inferred as Starr sings in the song’s chorus about “waiting for the morningside” and that “nothing’s ever over…the light is shining on somebody all the time/I’m not stumbling in the darkness/I’m just waiting for the morningside.” If in fact that is what Starr and company are trying to translate, then they are to be commended for this, again, unique translation. To that end, it proves one more example of what makes the album’s lyrical content overall just as important as the record’s musical arrangements. When all of this and the rest of the album’s lyrical content is considered along with all of the album’s musical content, that whole gives listeners every reason to take in this new offering from Blackberry Smoke. Even with that in mind, it is just a portion of what makes the album worth hearing. The record’s sequencing rounds out its most important elements.
The sequencing presented in You Hear Goergia is important to note because a close listen reveals a clear, intentional approach to this aspect. The album starts off in up-tempo fashion in ‘Live It Down.’ From there, the album’s energy gradually pulls back in each song until it reaches its most subdued point in ‘Lonesome for a Livin’ (ft. Jamey Johnson).’ From there, the record’s second half changes things up a little more to keep things interesting. ‘All Rise again (ft. Warren Haynes)’ immediately picks things back up to start off the record’s second half. ‘Old Enough to Know’ then just as starkly changes things again as it pulls way back before giving way to the gritty ‘Morningside.’ That arrangement gives way to even more energy as it transitions to ‘All Over The Road,’ giving audiences one more dose of high energy. From there, the band closes out the album on a relaxed but still confident note in ‘Old Scarecrow.’ Looking back through all of this, it should be clear that the band and all involved had a clear plan in sequencing the songs. That plan paid off as it ensures listeners’ engagement and entertainment just as much as the album’s content by itself. When this is considered along with the album’s content, the whole makes this record just as successful as any of the band’s existing albums.
Blackberry Smoke’s brand new album You Hear Georgia is a successful new offering from the band that has become known as one of the leaders of the southern rock realm over its life. That is proven in part through its musical arrangements. The arrangements are mostly southern rock songs that still show subtle variations from one to the next in their influences, sounds and styles. A close listen to the album proves that true. As if that is not enough, the band even goes full country in at least one song. The lyrical content featured alongside the album’s musical arrangements is important to the record’s appeal, too. That is because it is familiar in terms of the presented themes. The manner in which the familiar themes are presented makes them just as accessible as the album’s musical arrangements. The sequencing of all of that content rounds out the album’s most important elements. It brings everything together and ensures in itself, audiences’ engagement and entertainment. Each item noted here is important in its own way to the whole of the album. All things considered, they make You Hear Georgia a record that audiences in Georgia and beyond will enjoy hearing. You Hear Georgia is available now through 3 Legged Records/Thirty Tigers.
More information on the album is available online now along with all of the band’s latest news and more at:
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