FOR 10/26: Top 10 Blackberry Smoke Songs
For over 15 years and through six studio albums, Blackberry Smoke has helped define modern country music with their roots-inspired rock and Southern sensibilities. Hailing from Atlanta, Ga., Blackberry Smoke released their first studio album in 2003 and have since added three Top 5 albums to their repartee, with 2015’s Holding All the Roses and 2016’s Like an Arrow both reaching No. 1. Their music is just as dance-worthy and it is rock-and-roll, just as much Americana as it is Southern rock, and always an immensely fun listen.
Whether its an acoustic breakup track like “Let Me Down Easy” or a rollicking anthem like “Up In Smoke,” Blackberry Smoke has released a diverse range of stellar songs that could easily make a “best of” list. But since we had to choose, here are The Boot’s Top 10 Blackberry Smoke songs. Did your favorite make the list?
The title track off their first No. 1 album, “Holding All the Roses” is a delightfully taunting track about leaving your competitors in the dust and defying expectations, and in many ways it was Blackberry Smoke’s coming-out song … coming out with their guns blazing and guitars screaming, that is. One listen to lead singer Charlie Starr’s biting vocals and the band’s perfectly timed roots-rock, and anyone who thought Blackberry Smoke was just another country-rock band is quickly proven wrong. They may be the underdogs, but they’re here to make their mark.
No one can make a rock-and-and roll song boogie like Blackberry Smoke and in “Leave a Scar” even that banjo-pickin’ riff will make you want to get up and get down. Off their 2012 record The Whippoorwill, “Leave a Scar” sees Blackberry Smoke fully embrace their Southern rock sound while still creating a unique sound within the genre. Devil-may-care guitars licks seamlessly lead into rollicking banjo, all while creating a boisterous backbone for Starr’s imaginative lyrics. “When I die put my bones in the dixie dirt / Look down on me smilin' I don't want no feelings' hurt,” he sings about the legacy he hopes to leave. “All I leave behind me is a ragged old guitar / I may not change the world but I'm gonna leave a scar.”
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Declaring victory in the sheer act of survival, “Ain’t Much Left of Me” is all about celebrating life … even after it puts you through the worst. “I been rained on, rode hard and put up wet / Danced with the devil till I’m in debt ” bemoans Starr in the chorus before hinting at the least bit of hope. “Hey I’m still here, there ain’t much left to see / Well I’m still holding on and there ain’t much of left of me.” With it’s balancing ability to tell the hard truths about life without falling into wallowing despair, “Ain’t Much Left of Me” is an anthem for the survivors - for those who are hanging on by thread, but hanging on nonetheless.
As the opening for their 2018 release Find a Light, “Flesh and Bone” brought Blackberry Smoke’s music to a whole new level. In an album that stretched the limits and explored new corners of their music, “Flesh and Bone” is everything longtime fans of Blackberry Smoke love about the band. Stomping beats and reverb-fueled guitar riffs create a rocking refrain that also manages to get real about the dangers of temptation, success and always wanting what we can’t have … while making those dangers sound too fun to resist.
Another rhythmic rocker from Find a Light, “Best Seat in the House” also doubles as a satirical look at the modern American perspective. At first listen, lyrics like “I’m gonna gather unto me what must me mine / I want it all right now, not a little at a time,” seem like an uplifting call-to-action, encouraging listeners to fight for what’s important, but as the song progresses, we see that “Best Seat in the House” also warns of the dangers of never been content with what we have. "That song is sort of a sarcastic complaint," Starr has said about the song. “We all want what we ain't got. It's not enough to get in, people want front row."
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While Blackberry Smoke is known primarily for rocking hard, “One Horse Town” makes it into our top five precisely because it doesn’t. A provoking lament about feeling stuck in one place while yearning to see and do more, “One Horse Town” fuses country and blues to put a unique spin on the typical country song praising small-town life. Starr says it’s intentionally opposite from other songs that laud the merits of tiny towns, harkening back to his childhood in Lanett, Ala. and his desire to “go out and see what else I could find.” For Blackberry Smoke, it’s a quiet song, but still one that packs a punch.
A simple breakup song pleading with one’s lover to spare as much pain as possible in their rejection, “Let Me Down Easy” finds impact in simplicity. The band’s usual heavy electric riffs are traded in for stripped down acoustics, which pair perfectly with Amanda Shires airy vocals and the song’s simple lyrics.
“Someday when we’re older, we’ll look back on this and smile / I thought I had it handled, baby, I missed it by a mile,” sings Starr in the song, admitting to his own naivety about love in the midst of heartache. “Let me down easy if you can / I’m not half as strong as you think I am.” The song is perfect in its lyrics and delivery, making it an easy choice for a high spot on our list.
Making a foray into the world of what some might call “protest” songs, Blackberry Smoke puts their own rock-and-roll spin on social commentary with “Waiting for the Thunder.” “Maybe them with the power and the glory / Got more than they deserve / Why do we stand by and do nothin' / While they piss it all away?” Starr asks over reverb heavy guitars and percussive handclaps before urging listeners to stand up and do something instead of “waiting for the thunder” and letting the “lightnin’ get us all.” It’s clear that Blackberry Smoke is calling a rowdy revolution and we’re totally here for it.
What’s better than Blackberry Smoke singing about making the most this crazy, beautiful life? Blackberry Smoke singling about making the most of this crazy, beautiful life with Gregg Allman. Appearing on their 2016 album, Like an Arrow, “Free on the Wing” highlights the less hard-rock, more rambling jam band side of Blackberry Smoke, with Allman’s guitar and vocals being the perfect complement. “Free on the Wing” and its gentle insistence that the world keeps turning and “we might find what we searched for all along” was made all the more bittersweet when Allman passed away in 2017, making it one of the last songs he recorded before his death.
An oldie but a goodie (and we suggest maybe even the best), “Up in Smoke” appeared on Blackberry Smoke’s 2009 release Little Piece of Dixie, and in many ways its just the type of rock-and-roll anthem the boys from Georgia have become known for. “Up in smoke / Down in flames” Starr shouts in the chorus over a rousing beat. “Clap yo hands / Stomp yo feet / Boogie on down to the redneck backbeat / Throw down / It’s a hillbilly hoedown / Fire it up we can go all night now / Come on y’all ain’t no joke / Watch the world go up in smoke.” This is a uproarious rebellion of a song that makes on thing perfectly clear: where there’s Blackberry Smoke, there’s sure to be fire.