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Blackberry Smoke revives Southern rock

Blackberry Smoke

Blackberry Smoke Credit: Blackberry Smoke

For a time in the 1970s, Southern rock was one of the hottest trends in music.

Splitting the difference between country, jam bands and hard rock, the genre was led by groups like the Allman Brothers Band, the Marshall Tucker Band and Lynyrd Skynyrd.

By the time MTV came around in the '80s, it was all but forgotten. Over the past few years, the sound has had a bit of resurgence, with Georgia's Blackberry Smoke being one of the bands leading the way.

The group's latest album, "The Whippoorwill" - its third release since 2004 - is on country star Zac Brown's label and is its most successful to date.

amNewYork spoke with singer Charlie Starr.

How did you get to know Zac Brown? We met him on a Lynyrd Skynyrd cruise about six or seven years ago. We were all familiar with him from slugging it out in the same clubs. Right after that, their first big single took off.

Did he offer any advice on the album? He respects us a lot and we appreciate that. He said: "I love what you do. You've been working hard for a long time. I just want to help you."

You write very realistically about small-town life. Why do you think most musicians shy away from that? I don't know. Trends come and go, even lyrically. In country music today, there are a lot of good time drinking party songs. That's fine. Music is escapism. But there are lyrics that hit you where you live. If you're going to write about reality, then tell the truth.

How do you feel about the term "Southern rock"? Do you think it gets a bad name? If you dig and listen to a Southern rock band - not a band that calls itself Southern rock playing "Gimme Three Steps" at the VFW hall - but a band like the Allmans or Charlie Daniels, there's a lot of musicality. It's a melting pot, with jazz, gospel, deep blues, country and British Invasion rock. It's beautiful, and it's very smart music. It's not lowbrow at all. Hopefully, the spirit we carry on is that it's great music.


If you go: Blackberry Smoke is at Irving Plaza on Thursday at 7 p.m. 17 Irving Place, 212-777-6800, $20.

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