Released: 2014, Earache Records
Reviewer: Metal-Rules.com UK Team
Before anyone interjects THE WHIPPOORWHILL, full-length number three from southern-country-rockers Blackberry Smoke, first dropped in 2012 on Zac Brown’s Southern Ground label, but it’s now getting its feet wet in the UK/Europe courtesy of Earache Records. Hence the timing of the review – I know you were thinking it was because we were behind on this one. Trying to catch the Smoke in our fist after it had already dispersed. As if...
The definitely-with-fire Blackberry Smoke sound as though they’ve been knockin’ around for ages on the dusty trail, and a quick look at the not-always-accurate Wikipedia and the band’s hopefully-accurate website tells us that it has indeed been over a decade. Which isn’t long in music’s grand scheme, but long enough that we should be more familiar than we are.
The fabulously named THE WHIPPOORWHILL is a hodge-podge of saloon honky-tonk, smooth southern grooves, and re-fried country sentiment. Sure you can hear the Skynyrd’s and the ZZ’s, alongside a myriad of country influences, but it’s not an album that throws these around just hoping something will stick. Throughout the sense of something genuine flows as easily as the whisky at the bar.
"Pretty Little Lie" and "One Horse Town" really saddle up the country, with the latter feeling like a personal message for small-town locals but one we can all relate to no matter how big a city we live in, whilst "Crimson Moon’s" bluesy-groove will have feet tapping out a call to dance.
THE WHIPPOORWHILL does sag in the middle a little, which is somewhat expected in an album of this length, but Blackberry Smoke simply breeze back in to close with what is probably the strongest set of songs on the album -"Sleeping Dogs", and lead track "Shakin Hands With The Holy Ghost", which both take in more of that southern rock side . Sandwiched between is "Up The Road" which feels like a lost Aerosmith track. Albeit one with a gospel-style close.
As to the extras – there’s live versions of the first two tracks, which gives the album a sort of mirrored start-end, and an extra studio track – "Country Side Of Life". This is a welcome extra for its we-could-be-jamming-this-in-a-bar-at-the-end-of-a-really-good-night up-beatness. You know, that feeling quality bands can give to their recordings.
With THE WHIPPOORWHILL Blackberry Smoke play to their strengths, and their style makes a welcome change but only because you probably don’t hear as much of it these days. It's a style that's knocked some dust of its boots in its time. That said it’s their adoption of one of those traditions, that old country and blues story-telling in their writing that stands out the most. Because Blackberry Smoke can spin a good yarn, and it’s one that you'll find yourself wanting to listen to.
Review by Kirsty Birkett-Stubbs