Blackberry Smoke's 'Holding All the Roses' Serves Up a Dozen Southern-Fried Cuts

The rise of Blackberry Smoke, a hard-working, heavy-riffing quintet of southern-fried road monsters, hasn’t exactly been meteoric.

For the past 14-plus years, the Atlanta-based rockers have been enjoying what frontman Charlie Starr calls a “slow build,” playing more than 250 shows a year, touring with ZZ Top, releasing a handful of studio and live discs and, most importantly, forging a legion of rabid fans.

Although their last album, 2012’s The Whippoorwill, helped launch them into the role of southern rock’s newest hirsute ambassadors, their upcoming effort, Holding All the Roses (due in February via Rounder Records), holds the promise of upping the ante.

The 12-song set, which was produced by fellow Atlanta native Brendan O’Brien [AC/DC, Neil Young], is packed with crunchy back-porch grooves, greasy riffs, snarling guitar tones and simply irresistible hooks.

“This record gives the listener a lot to more to listen to,” says Starr, the band’s chief songwriter, singer and guitarist. “There’s nothing wrong with a meat-and-potatoes record like The Whippoorwill, but this time we put a lot more into the pie. Some people might think that means it sounds overproduced, but then I guess it is, because we produced more.”

Besides Starr’s main ax, a 1956 Gibson Les Paul Jr., the Holding All the Roses gear pile includes Starr’s Gibson Music City Jr. with B-Bender, which can be heard on “Fire in the Hole,” a host of vintage Fender and Marshall amps and several by Greg Germino of North Carolina that were built in the style of Sixties Plexi amps.

For Starr, who shares six-string duties with Paul Jackson, it’s all about the riffs.

“I’m a guitar player first, so the songs are always riff-oriented. That part is usually already done, so it’s a tall job for Paul to find a part that complements the riff. Sometimes he and I sit down and work on the whole Allmans-style ‘weaving’ thing, trying to find that guitar magic.”

Photo: Troy Stains

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Damian Fanelli
Editor-in-Chief, Guitar World

Damian is Editor-in-Chief of Guitar World magazine. In past lives, he was GW’s managing editor and online managing editor. He's written liner notes for major-label releases, including Stevie Ray Vaughan's 'The Complete Epic Recordings Collection' (Sony Legacy) and has interviewed everyone from Yngwie Malmsteen to Kevin Bacon (with a few memorable Eric Clapton chats thrown into the mix). Damian, a former member of Brooklyn's The Gas House Gorillas, was the sole guitarist in Mister Neutron, a trio that toured the U.S. and released three albums. He now plays in two NYC-area bands.