If you’re a fan of the sleazy, swaggery Southern blues-rock supplied by the Black Crowes 20 years ago, you’ll find the band’s kindred spirits in Blackberry Smoke.
The Atlanta quintet is the real deal and display their maturation from bar band to ready-for-prime-time arena fillers on “The Whippoorwill,” their third album and first on Zac Brown’s Southern Ground label.
While there are shades of Cinderella’s “Gypsy Road” in the riffs that open the album lead track, “Six Ways to Sunday,” the guys quickly dive into a piano boogie backdrop played against serrated guitar chords.
Throughout the album – which Blackberry Smoke has been selling at tour dates for several months – lead singer Charlie Starr’s gasoline-soaked voice is full of cracks in the most meaningful places. You hear it in the lazy strut of “Everybody Knows She’s Mine” and the title track, a groggy accompaniment to a bottle of Jack Daniels.
The band adeptly shifts from the pure country of “One Horse Town,” on which Starr plaintively reflects on being “an old married man at 23” already looking for a way to get his boys out of this “little bitty town,” to the blistering barroom rocker “Leave a Scar,” a breathless head-spinner flecked with banjo for that omnipresent Southern flavor.
Elsewhere, Blackberry works its endearing habit of time signature shifts on “Crimson Moon,” which starts with heavy guitar, organ and a stomping beat that fades into a pretty melody, and then does the opposite with “Ain’t Got the Blues,” an old-timey back porch strummer that bursts into a foot-tapping shuffle.
Then again, it’s nearly impossible not to tap some part of your body while immersed in “The Whippoorwill.”
Also available Tuesday: