Blackberry Smoke has never been a band that stands still. Whether pursuing the dream by logging hundreds of thousands of miles on America’s highways and abroad or relentlessly exploring the many facets of its most unique art form, the Atlanta quintet is always on the move.The songs on Blackberry Smoke’s sixth album, Like an Arrow, due October14, show just how far this authentic American rock band has come as the accomplished group of musicians tacklesa diverse set of new ideas, sounds and territories, long after most bands with half the success might have settled into a well-worn groove. Like An Arrow continues the trend of sonic exploration established on the Blackberry Smoke’s previous two releases, 2012’s The Whippoorwilland 2015’s chart-topping Holding All the Roses. It kicks off with the band’s heaviest song to date and explores British rock before moving on to musical stops in places like Macon, Woodstock, Muscle Shoals and Tulsa as Starr and his buddies follow the ramblin’ examples of timeless, authentic acts like The Allman Brothers Band, JJ Cale, The Band and others who define rock ‘n’ roll in all its many facets.
Holding All the Roses, produced by Grammy Award winner Brendan O’Brien, debuted at No. 1 on the Billboard Country Albums chart and No. 7 on the Rock Albums chart, proof of the band’s universality. Praised by fellow artists as diverse as Dierks Bentley and ZZ Top’s Billy Gibbons, Blackberry Smoke now delivers an album that should invite even more fans under its revival tent. Produced by the band with O’Brien’s engineer Billy Bowers handling the recording, Like An Arrow sounds and feels exactly how the band wanted it to. The band continues its exploration of amped-up territory on the title track, a psychedelic blast of heavy metaltranscendentalism.“There are some songs that are heavier than anything we’ve ever recorded -it’s a far cry,” Starr said. “’Like An Arrow’ is the closest thing to Black Sabbath that I think we’ve ever recorded in a way. I think it surprised everybody when we pressed record and started to play it.
“Sunrise In Texas,” a Michael Tolcher song that’s been a fixture in Blackberry Smoke’s live set for a decade, finally makes it onto album here, also because of its uniqueness. The song opens with dobro and electric piano before building to along-form crescendo that lets the band show off its well-honed musicianship. “Running Through Time,” written with friend Travis Meadows, takes a look at life through the eyes of an old man looking back at the struggles of his youth on a song that’s carried along on an airy, lilting guitar line like nothing else the band’s recorded. “We both led wild lives throughout our 20s and some of our 30s, doing similar types of bad things,” Starr said. “To me that type of song just embodies the whole Southern rock idea. Because it sounds like it came out of the river, out of the Chattahoochee, out of the Southeastern United States where we all grew up. And to have Gregg Allman sing on it perfectly completes it.”