Opener ”Live It Down” tells me that, yes, Blackberry Smoke seems to wanna rock things up hard again. It’s an upbeat Classic Rock groover with a big 70’s feel, it really rocks but with their brand of Southern Rock present at all times. It’s bluesy, slightly sleazy, raw and edgy but also holds some softer, laid-back parts which only brings up the dynamics. The female backing vocals that adds to the harmonies of the brilliantly catchy chorus really lifts the tune as well. The album really couldn’t have started better. The following title-track and single takes on a slower pace and holds a heavier outlook. There’s some crunchy and rowdy guitars and the swinging drum-beat creates an organic live-feel while every melody sticks like glue – and we haven’t even gotten to the chorus yet – which is, of course, a beast. The bottleneck slide also brings up the Southern Rock vibes. Killer.
”Hey Delilah” is slower and blues-laden with a 70’s Rolling Stones feel to it. It’s a Country smelling rocker with some chunky, staccato guitar-riffage and swinging piano tinkling in the background. More female vocal-harmonies comes in the smooth chorus and the thing is just catchy as damn. A good song and after three songs, the album has really kicked off in the best of ways. ”Ain’t The Same” is a held-back country-ballad with pop-twist rock-stomp and a steel-guitar to match. It’s a melancholic Tom Petty meets Eagles number with a big radio-friendly chorus – very catchy. They should make a single out of it as the hit-potential here is enormous. A pretty good tune but a bit mundane.
Singer-songwriter and Country-star Jamey Johnson guests ”Lonesome For A Livin'” with some vocal-inputs. It’s a slow country-rock ballad, very Southern sounding where both piano and a pedal steel-guitar is prominent. It’s more Country than Rock and comes across as a slow-dance final at some southern country music-club. It’s ok, not bad but forgettable. Allman Brothers/Gov’t Mule guy Warren Hayes guests on the edgier and grittier second single ”All Rise Again” rocker. It’s heavier with a bigger Hard Rock outlook and an intense groove made for the stage. It’s a dirty, sleazy Classic Rock stomper with a bluesy feel to it and one of the album’s finest moments.
More low-key, slow and laid-back balladry comes in the form of ”Old Enough To Know”, a quite stripped and bare-boned country-number based on acoustic guitars with an Americana vibe complete with some slides. It’s a folky tune with a smooth arrangement that unfortunately don’t resonate with me at all. Not bad per se but I find dull and forgettable. ”Morningside” brings on a darker vibe and a somewhat spacey soundscape. It’s held-back yet with a steady beat, a Country twang on the guitars and some Classic Rock riffage in a slower pace. It’s a stompy number that contains the rough edges and rawness I always dug with this band – and the chorus is striking and direct. Great stuff.
The tempo speeds up with the Rolling Stones influenced 70’s sounding party-groover and latest single ”All Over The Road”, very uplifting and live-sounding. Honky-tonk piano, Rock ’n’ Roll guitars, Country twangs and a Southern Rock edge with a strong main-melody, lots of hooks everywhere and another ace chorus that will work splendidly from the stage. Very good. Closing track ”Old Scarecrow” is a typical Southern Rock stomper, no more no less. It’s upbeat, straight ahead but the verses has some more held-back moments as well with a bluesy feel. The bottleneck solo is splendid and the swampy outlook gives an organic, Southern feel to it all. Good one.
Good and bad, what we’re given here is a Blackberry Smoke album – no more, no less. Just like a band like AC/DC, Blackberry Smoke has their style and they won’t change anything around – if it ain’t broken, don’t fix it. While it’s great to know what I’m gonna get it can also become a bit predictable but the biggest issue I have with this album is the slow tunes. What started out so well became a bit samey towards the second half of the record. Also, when the Country takes over from Rock, I’m not really there so I find this album a bit uneven, just like some of its predecessors. When BBS is raw, edgy and gritty, they’re awesome but their ballad side is a bit too bland for comfort. It’s a good album but dammit, I wish they could rock things up more the next time around.