Written by Chris Osifchin
Blackberry Smoke’s latest effort, Holding All The Roses, offers a tried and true take on classic rock. Listeners won’t find a particularly groundbreaking sound on the album, but the Atlanta outfit has managed to put together an album with serious gusto and southern charm, mixing radio-ready rock ‘n’ roll with the twang of southern rock.
On the opening track, “Let Me Help You (Find The Door)” front man Charlie Starr’s first words are “Why’s it got to be the same damn thing/same damn song everybody wants to sing.” This is Blackberry Smoke’s thesis statement of sorts, as if to say the band is ditching the lessons they learned from their forebears to create something entirely new and original. Unfortunately, the band doesn’t quite live up to that ambition. Most of the album is comprised of the types of sounds previously crafted by the likes of Lynyrd Skynyrd and, more recently, The Black Crowes.
Though the band’s sound is not especially innovative or original, what is impressive, is the range they exhibit. From the radio rock of the title track “Holding All The Roses,” to the sweet swing of instrumental “Randolph County Farewell” and the jazzy Doobie Brothers vibe on “No Way Back To Eden,” the band is well-versed in the styles and sub-sets of classic Southern rock. They maintain a coherent sound throughout the album with just the right amount of variation to the sonic landscape to keep the songs sounding fresh and interesting.
Blackberry Smoke is a band that takes its cues from its predecessors. They clearly took lessons from rock and roll’s old faithful in crafting Roses. Atlanta based producer and resident rock and roll genius, Brendan O’Brien, notably responsible for albums from Pearl Jam, Bruce Springsteen, and The Black Crowes, has his fingerprints all over the tracks. He’s got the band sounding a lot like The Black Crowes here, particularly on the guitar work for “Payback’s A Bitch.”
While Blackberry Smoke’s fourth studio album holds up as an achievement for a band that’s been together more than a decade, the album isn’t able live up to the spirit of its opening statement. Starr sings, “they sell the same old faces with a brand new name,” but it’s like he’s singing about his own band.
Holding All The Roses is a serviceable record that will likely find a place on today’s rock radio. Just don’t expect anything new.