Blackberry Smoke, “Rock ‘n’ Roll Again” (2014): One Track Mind

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Blackberry Smoke’s last album, The Whippoorwill, remains, at the same time, one of the most incredible albums that I’ve heard in recent years and one of the most difficult for me to listen to now.

The record arrived during a very dark point in my life, and it made a very strong and personal connection with me. There was something in almost every song that I could identify with at the time, and while the record was instrumental in helping me get through that time, the songs also tend to dredge up some things that are better left in the past. There are a few songs on The Whippoorwill that I simply can’t listen to anymore, and that’s a real shame because it is an amazing record.

But it makes me happy to finally get some new music from the band as “Rock ‘n’ Roll Again” arrives to introduce us to Blackberry Smoke’s new Brendan O’Brien-produced record Holding All the Roses, due out in early 2015 from Rounder Records. It’s available now on their website as a free download if you sign up for their email newsletter.

“Rock ‘n’ Roll Again” is very much like the first release from The Whippoorwill, “Six Ways to Sunday.” It’s a joyful, upbeat love song with a little mild double entendre. The song has perhaps a bit more of an old-fashioned rock ‘n’ roll feel than the pure Southern rock of “Six Ways to Sunday,” but it’s a feel-good, cruising backroads with the windows down sort of tune.

The squeaky clean production that O’Brien has given this tune does give me a little bit of pause. Southern rock, by its very nature, needs to have a little grit and grime on it, but this has a bit of a bright pop sheen to it. It’s OK on a bubblegum sort of tune like this, but a song like “The Whippoorwill” or “Ain’t Much Left of Me” might suffer from this kind of shiny treatment. Here’s hoping he lets them rub a little dirt on in other places.

“Rock ‘n’ Roll Again” delivers exactly what it intends. It put a smile on my face, got my toes tapping and kept popping back into my head at random times for the rest of the day. There’s not much more you can ask for from this type of song. I can’t wait to hear what else Blackberry Smoke has in store for us.

Fred Phillips

Fred Phillips

Fred Phillips is a veteran entertainment writer with a love of hard rock and heavy metal. He has written music reviews, columns and feature stories for several newspapers, Web sites and a national wire service, while running a stand-alone site called Hall of the Mountain King in various places and incarnations since 1997. Contact Something Else! at reviews@somethingelse reviews.com.
Fred Phillips

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